Verizon's latest pitch isn't quite as good as paying only for the cable channels you want to watch, but it's one step closer to an à-la-carte TV service that cord-cutters dream about. Starting soon, customers will be able to purchase Verizon's FiOS TV cable service, starting at $55 per month, with channel packs that are relevant to their interests rather than broad swaths of cable programming.
Tech news site Re/code provided a breakdown of Verizon's proposed structure. Every customer will get local TV channels, as well as a host of general interest cable channels (like the Food Network, AMC and CNN) as part of a Base Channels package.
From there, customers can choose additional channel packs all themed around specific genres. A Kids' Channel pack, for example, includes networks like Disney and Nickelodeon, while the sports Channel pack includes Fox Sports and ESPN.
The Verizon package covers base channels and two channel packs of the customer's choice, but provides no Internet service. It costs $55 per month, and prices increase from there depending on what other kind of services you want, ranging up to $95 per month for base channels, two channel packs, 75 Mbps Internet and landline phone service. Verizon does not seem to offer a plan with more than two channel packs, as simply purchasing a comprehensive cable plan would be cheaper at that point.
We contacted Verizon to find out exactly how many channels it will include in the base and additional channel packs. The base package will include at least 35 channels, while the packs will include anywhere between 10 and 17 channels.
While the service is not exactly picking and choosing only the channels you want, it's arguably a step in the right direction. After all, it seems silly to make users pay for sports channels if their eyes glaze over every time a ballgame starts, or five different kids' channels if they live alone. The price, however, might raise a few eyebrows.
Fifty-five dollars for standalone cable service is comparable to the PlayStation Vue service, which costs $50 for over 50 channels. (Vue also requires a separate Internet connection, plus a PlayStation console, to boot.) However, Fios' new packages are much more expensive than Sling TV ($20 per month). Sling TV offers a much more pared-down package of 20 channels, with several of its own add-on channel packs, for $5 each.
There's also the question of how much money users will really save. Verizon already offers a basic cable package with more than 210 channels at $54.99 per month. The big difference is that the base channel and additional channel packs will not require a contract, but it's not as though Verizon is offering them at a discount.
Depending on how the channel packs perform, Verizon may offer even more granular channel options in the near future. In the meantime, expect competitors to follow suit sooner rather than later.
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Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.