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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.

All packages also include "Taxes, Fees and Other Verizon Charges," which depend largely on the hardware you decide to rent. Here are the taxes and fees Verizon charges in Maryland:

  • $2.82 with no HD set-top box
  • $4.17 with one HD set-top box
  • $4.84 for one TV with basic DVR service
  • $7.32 for two TVs with "Quantum TV Enhanced" DVR
  • $10.14 for four TVs with "Quantum TV Premium" DVR

Let that sink in. Even though you're already paying out the nose to rent Verizon's set-top boxes, you'll pay even more for that hardware in ongoing taxes and fees that are practically hidden during the sign-up process.

All told, while Verizon says you'll pay a mere $5 per month extra for Custom TV, the true cost is at least $25 per month with HD channels and DVR service. Add more TVs or regional sports to the mix, and the price gets even higher.

Oh, and that's only for the first two years. According to Verizon's website, the whole shebang gets $30-per-month more expensive after your contract is up. And if you'd rather not lock yourself into a two-year contract (which carries an early termination fee up to $230), the price rises by $20 per month after the first year.

A deal with downsides

Despite all of those fees, caveats, and gotchas, Custom TV might make sense for some people. Compared to Verizon's standard 235-channel bundle, Custom TV is $25 per month cheaper. If you can find the channels you want within Verizon's customizable packages, you'll put a lot of money in the bank every year. (I should note at this point that Custom TV is only for new subscribers. Existing customers remain stuck with their expensive bundles.)

Still, this whole exercise just illustrates how Verizon and other traditional pay-TV providers are trapped in a system of their own design, which relies on expensive hardware, invented fees and shifty pricing tactics to keep the profits coming.

The advantage of Internet video services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and HBO Now is that they aren't burdened by the old pay-TV model. While Verizon could try to create its own Internet-only service — as the Dish Network has done with Sling TV — this would become a much more complicated endeavor, requiring Verizon to strike new deals with TV networks. Better to keep the burden on subscribers instead.

 

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