ESPN fired a preemptive shot at any cable or satellite providers looking to break the cable bundle model. On Monday, they filed suit against Verizon in the New York State Court because of the new package, which offers ESPN in a separate tier for an additional charge instead of the lowest level tier offered by Verizon.
Here’s the statement by ESPN, provided by John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal.
“ESPN is at the forefront of embracing innovative ways to deliver high-quality content and value to consumers on multiple platforms, but that must be done in compliance with our agreements. We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts.”
Earlier this month, Verizon announced they’d begin offering what they called a “skinny” package, in which customers would receive a base set of channels and could choose additional packs to add on to that basic package. ESPN wasn’t included in the basic package, but was instead on a sports tier along with Fox Sports 1, NBCSN, and other networks. ESPN was predictably perturbed by this turn of events, and took a decisive step today.
Without knowing the specific terms of the lawsuit or ESPN’s contract with Verizon, it’s impossible to make any determinations about how this conflict will get resolved if it heads to the courts. But if there’s a settlement, I can already envision what happens – Verizon adds ESPN (and other ESPN networks) to the skinny package, ups the price, and then Fox and NBC get angry and file suit, and all hell breaks loose.
A provider has fired the first shot in the unbundling war, and a network has responded as we’d expect it would. This is just the beginning, folks.