Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN sports network sued Verizon Communications Inc. in New York, escalating a battle over how much freedom the phone company has to repackage pay-TV networks for its FiOS customers.
ESPN, which has said Verizon is wrongly using its programming in a new service called Custom TV, is seeking an injunction and damages, according to a filing Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
The service has triggered a growing dispute between Verizon and sports programmers over new TV packages that give customers a choice of channels. The least-expensive Custom TV package from FiOS excludes ESPN and other sports networks. ESPN is typically part of basic pay TV. The suit by ESPN raises the possibility Verizon could face more legal action.
Using ESPN in new packages “must be done in compliance with our agreements,” ESPN said in a statement. “We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts.”
Verizon’s Custom TV offer started eight days ago. It gives viewers a base package of channels for $55 and a choice to add other categories for $10 apiece.
In response to the service, two other broadcasters, Fox Sports and NBCUniversal, objected to the channel options, saying they don’t comply with contract terms.
NBC and Fox declined to comment Monday.
“Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice, and the industry should be focused on giving consumers what they want,” Deidre Hart, a Verizon spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “We are well within our rights under our agreements to offer our customers these choices.”
Last week, Disney’s WABC-TV and ESPN Radio in New York refused to run ads for Custom TV, Verizon said.
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