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Verizon's 'Custom TV' skinny bundles: More flexibility, same old gotchas

Jared Newman | April 24, 2015
Verizon has hatched a scheme to win back cord cutters by offering more flexible channel bundles, but as always with pay TV providers, you must beware the fine print.

Verizon has hatched a scheme to win back cord cutters by offering more flexible channel bundles, but as always with pay TV providers, you must beware the fine print.

When media reports on Verizon's new FiOS "Custom TV" package started popping up over the weekend, I was excited. The traditional channel bundle has become far too bloated, and more people are realizing they don't need it all. It was only a matter of time before TV providers responded to the trend.

But while Custom TV looks like a heck of a deal on Verizon's newly updated website — only $5 per month more than Internet alone — the hidden costs can add up quickly. New customers who are eligible for this "skinny bundle" will need to approach with caution.

Verizon Custom TV explained

Custom TV isn't exactly a la carte, in that you don't choose exactly which channels you want. Instead, Verizon takes a page from Sling TV and gives you a small bundle of mandatory channels, plus your choice of optional add-on packs.

The main bundle includes the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS) and several big cable networks such as CNN, AMC, and the Food Network. There are 45 channels in total, though nearly half are standard-definition only.

The add-on packs are arranged around themes like "Lifestyle" (Bravo, TLC, A&E, etc.), "Entertainment" (TBS, TNT, FX, etc.), and "Sports" (ESPN, Fox Sports, and so on). For now, Verizon is throwing in two of these add-on packs at no extra charge. Additional packs cost $10 per month.

I've included an image of Verizon's full Custom TV lineup at the bottom of this post, or you can click here to view it directly.

Eye-catching prices and sneaky hidden costs

In Maryland, where I've been perusing Verizon's FiOS website and order forms, a Custom TV and 25Mbps Internet bundle is billed at $60 per month for two years. That's only $5 per month more than Verizon's Internet-only offering in the same area.

But once you start working through the sign-up process, the true cost starts spiraling upward.

Want a high-definition picture and an on-screen channel guide? That'll be a $12-per-month set-top box rental fee. Adding DVR brings that fee up to $18 per month, and that's only for one television. If you want a second TV box with multi-room DVR, the monthly rental price rises to at least $35 per month, or as much as $50 per month for the most advanced features.

The fees don't stop there. All TV bundles also include a $1.99 per month "broadcast TV fee," and if you include a regional sports package, another $4.99 per month fee applies.

 

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