Verizon Fios shifts to 'skinny bundles' for TV service

The move is further evidence of a potentially dramatic shift in the way television programming is being offered to customers.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Who needs 100-plus channels when we're only watching 17 of them per TV household? Nielsen

The bundle isn't what it used to be: Verizon says its Fios customers will be getting more choice over the channels they watch on TV.

Starting April 19, Verizon's Fios television service will offer a "skinny bundle" option. Rather than being stuck with a standard, bundled TV service that includes seemingly every channel, no matter how niche, the skinny bundle has base channels, including local television networks and cable networks AMC and CNN, and the option to choose among seven genre-specific channel packs. Those genres include everything from kids to entertainment to sports.

The standalone bundle service starts at $55 per month with the base and two channel packs. Each additional package, which has anywhere between 10 and 17 channels, costs customers $10 more. Better yet, channel packs can be swapped out after they've been on a customer's account for 30 days, so you could switch between them based on what shows you're interested in throughout the year.

Verizon's move is further evidence of a potentially dramatic shift in the way television programming is being offered to customers. Dish's Sling TV, for instance, offers over a dozen live channels for $20 a month, and there has been talk that Apple will be launching its own television service later this year that will include a host of live programming. HBO this month made waves when it launched HBO Now, a standalone streaming version of its channel and programming.

Historically, the television business has been an all-you-can-eat model. Television service providers offer all of their channels to customers as part of a bundled price. But with the rise of so-called "cord cutters," or people who have ditched their traditional TV service for streaming offerings from the likes of Netflix, Hulu and now Sling TV, companies have been forced to rethink their business models.

Indeed, Verizon's move is a notable nod in the direction of a true a-la-carte offering that would allow customers to pluck only those channels that they want to watch. Television service providers have been loath to offer such a deal, arguing that the economics of letting customers pick and choose don't make sense. But it's a sign of changing times that Verizon is making a push to get closer to that goal and Dish is offering in Sling TV what amounts to a competitor to its standard satellite service.

"My expectation is that there will be some percentage of our customers that migrate to these new plans, but I think increasingly we will have new customers that are attracted to these plans," Tami Erwin, president of Verizon Fios, said on CBNC on Friday. I think about millennials and how millennials are viewing video today for example."

Providing customers more choice over what they want to watch seems to make sense if you consider the way Americans actually watch television. Nielsen last year released a study that found the average US household now receives 189 channels, but watches just 17. Interestingly, the average TV household has watched about 17 channels every year since 2008, but in 2008, the average home had just 129 channels and now carries about 50 percent more.

Verizon's Ultimate HD plan, which sits outside its new skinny-bundle option, offers over 420 channels.

Verizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Via WSJ)