FiOS TV to add surcharge to bills for sports channels

Posted: January 25, 2013

With sports-channel costs soaring, Verizon Communication Inc.'s FiOS TV service says it will surcharge millions of customers $2.42 a month for regional sports networks and this week launched its first non-sports cable-TV package.

FiOS Select HD costs $49.99 a month as compared with $64.99 for a FiOS package with ESPN and other sports channels.

DirecTV, the nation's second-largest pay-TV operator after Comcast Corp., also is implementing sports-related surcharges.

The actions come amid a national debate over sports entertainment, which is now estimated to account for half the programming costs in the typical cable- and satellite-TV bill. These are costs in all-sports channels and general-entertainment cable channels with sports, such as TNT.

ESPN, Fox, Comcast/NBC and other media companies have agreed to pay more than $80 billion for the national TV rights to college, amateur and professional sports games well into the next decade, most of which will be passed along to pay-TV customers through higher monthly bills.

Another significant part of pay-TV bills are regional sports networks.

Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski said on Friday the $2.42-per-month surcharge reflects the "skyrocketing incremental sports content costs" and that Verizon is "trying to strike a fine balance between absorbing costs and providing good value to our customers."

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the surcharge will be applied to new FiOS customers, and month-to-month FiOS customers, on March 1. Eventually, the surcharge will apply to all FiOS customers through contract renewals, Gierczynski said.

DirecTV now levies a $3 surcharge for new customers and next month will add a $2 surcharge for existing customers in TV markets with more than one regional sports network.

The surcharges apply to about 20 percent of DirecTV customers, spokesman Robert Mercer said.

"This is a way of recovering some but not all of the skyrocketing costs for sports in some markets," Mercer said.

Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or or follow on Twitter @bobfernandez1.

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