ESPN is suing Verizon over new programming packages introduced earlier this monththat remove the sports network from basic cable.
ESPN alleges that Verizon violated its contract by placing it in a sports tier, according to documents filed Monday in New York Supreme Court. That contract, called a carriage agreement, prohibits removing either ESPN or ESPN 2 from basic cable, the network claims.
“This is an action for breach of contract and declaratory judgment arising from Defendant’s breach of its obligations to Plaintiff under certain licence agreements,” ESPN says in the filing.
Custom TV is a new programming package announced last week by Verizon. It works off a base of 35 channels including local affiliates and then places the remaining networks in genres such as sports, news and information, family and so on.
The sports genre is anchored by ESPN and ESPN 2. The sports network wants Verizon to put both channels back on basic cable.
ESPN has two good reasons for wanting to stay on basic cable — ratings and money. It carries a wide array of live sports events, which are expensive to produce, and it charges high carriage fees to pay for those sports. Having ESPN on basic cable puts it in front of the most possible eyes. Putting it in a sports tier would segment the audience and put it in a weaker position to negotiate fees when the current carriage agreement is up.
The network released the following statement regarding the lawsuit.
“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,” the network said in a statement to Business Insider. “We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts.”
Verizon has not replied to a request for comment from Business Insider.
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