ESPN sues Verizon over new 'skinny bundles' for cable TV

The lawsuit comes after Verizon unveiled new bundles that allow customers to choose specific packages of channels that can be swapped every 30 days.

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Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
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ESPN isn't happy with Verizon. James Martin/CNET

ESPN isn't a fan of Verizon's new way of offering cable channels under its Fios TV service.

The sports network has sued Verizon for allegedly breaching its contract, which was earlier reported by CNBC.com. The lawsuit was filed in the New York Supreme Court.

The dispute stems from Verizon's "="" option"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="af46f133-b5de-4e8f-b451-8d80c4c4a0b5" slug="verizon-fios-announces-plug-and-play-tv-service-centered-on-genre" link-text="recently unveiled " section="news" title="Verizon Fios shifts to 'skinny bundles' for TV service" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"af46f133-b5de-4e8f-b451-8d80c4c4a0b5","slug":"verizon-fios-announces-plug-and-play-tv-service-centered-on-genre","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"home-entertainment"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Tech^Home Entertainment","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> , which gives consumers the ability to choose specific packages of cable channels which can be swapped in and out every 30 days. The skinny bundle offers more flexibility than the standard cable bundle, which provides a large number of preset channels.

ESPN's lawsuit represents the first sign of resistance by the content companies, which are dealing with a shifting viewing patterns as consumers increasingly opt to watch video online and on their own time. These viewers, known as cord-cutters since they've cut the cable TV part of their service, are forcing content companies to look at how they distribute their programming.

The sports-programming giant believes Verizon's new bundle conflicts with their agreement.The lawsuit is seeking to enforce the terms of the contract, stop Verizon from implementing the new bundle and potentially pay damages.

"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," said an ESPN spokeswoman in a statement. "We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts."

Verizon defended its new bundle. "Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice, and the industry should be focused on giving consumers what they want," a company spokesman said in a statement. "We are well within our rights under our agreements to offer our customers these choices."

The New York telecommunications giant has shown a willingness to explore different models as it too deals with customers abandoning traditional pay-TV service in lieu of online options.