FiOS TV to add surcharge to bills for sports channels

Posted: January 27, 2013

With sports-channel costs soaring, Verizon Communication Inc.'s FiOS TV service says it will surcharge almost five million 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 versus $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 is regional sports networks.

Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski said on Friday that the $2.42-per-month surcharge reflected "skyrocketing incremental sports content costs" and that Verizon was "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 TV customers, and month-to-month FiOS customers, on March 1. Eventually, the surcharge will apply to all FiOS customers through contract renewals, Gierczynski said. The company has 4.7 million FiOS TV customers.

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.

Comcast spokesman Peter Dobrow said the cable-TV distributor does not have a sports surcharge.

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

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