Verizon's Select HD option has 140 channels for $49.99 per month, compared to its standard Prime HD package for $64.99.
Tired of paying for sports channels you never watch? Cable companies are starting to roll out new options just for you.
Verizon on Monday launched a new cable TV package entirely devoid of sports channels like ESPN and priced at a deep discount that may reflect how much sports TV actually costs in the world of television.
Verizon's new "Select HD" package of 140 channels includes local broadcast TV channels, 30-plus HD channels, and what Verizon calls 19 of the top 30 cable networks. That includes general-interest stations like USA, AMC, and Bravo, plus kids' channels like Nick, Disney and Cartoon Network, plus news and nonfiction channels like Food Network, TLC, Discovery, CNN and BBC World.
While there is the more progressive-leaning MSNBC in the package, there is no conservative-leaning Fox News or business-focused CNBC. (Verizon officials say there is no political design to the package, and there is the money-focused Bloomberg TV.)
Cable packages are notoriously hard to compare by price across different pay-TV providers because they offer different combinations and discounts if customers also sign up for things like telephone service or broadband internet.
However, Verizon officials made this comparison: The new standalone "Select HD" service without sports channels would cost $49.99 per month, compared to Verizon's standard Prime HD" package for $64.99.
Verizon's move isn't happening in a vacuum.
Cable TV rates rise almost every year, and sports channels like ESPN are widely viewed as the culprit because so many viewers consider them indispensible – giving sports networks great leverage to charge cable TV providers ever-more to carry their programs. That's a cost that cable companies either must absorb out of their own profits or pass along to customers in the form of higher rates.
A sports-free tier provides some cover for customers who don't watch sports in their homes. Sports may be popular, "But sports is not everyone's cup of tea," Verizon Spokesman Bill Kula wrote in a blog post Monday about the package, adding that "We understand that many households are on tight budget, and we want to help make sure you aren't paying for something you think you don't need."
Bright House officials noted they also have a discount TV tier, though not necessarily devoid of sports channels. Their "Basic" tier launched several years ago with just more than 25 channels for about $15 a month, though for another $1 a month, those subscribers can have a digital box that also brings them Bright House Sports Network and other digital channels.
About a year ago, DirecTV launched a smaller TV tier called their "Entertainment" package for a starting price of about $30 per month that does have national sports networks like ESPN, but does not have regional sports networks like Sun Sports.