For sports fans, the new slimmer packages being offered by Verizon FiOS starting this weekend won't include one of the most popular networks in entertainment: ESPN.
Disney-owned ESPN said in a statement late Friday that it hasn't agreed to license its ESPN or ESPN2 channels in Verizon's new "Custom TV" skinny bundles. The two channels, which run exclusive games including college and NFL football and basketball events, are only available in Verizon's much bigger bundles of hundreds of channels.
“Media reports about Verizon’s new contemplated bundles describe packages that would not be authorized by our existing agreements," the statement said. "Among other issues, our contracts clearly provide that neither ESPN nor ESPN2 may be distributed in a separate sports package.”
Verizon had said its genre-oriented slim packages of channels would include sports channels such as ESPN, Fox, the NFL Network and regional sports networks.
Verizon didn't immediately respond to requests for comments about ESPN.
The confusion around programming for FiOS's new television bundles comes amid a dramatic shakeup in television entertainment as programmers such as ESPN and HBO establish new partnerships with tech firms such as Apple, Sony and SlingTV to stream their content. ESPN has a partnership to stream some of its programs on SlingTV, which is run by Dish Network. HBO this week launched its stand-alone streaming service through Apple and Cablevision.
The shift to Internet video has sent cable and telecom firms such as Verizon FiOS scrambling to offer television packages to keep customers from ditching their services for streaming alternatives. Verizon said that a typical cable package contains hundreds of channels, but the average U.S. viewer only watches about 17 channels.