Burger King might have abandoned the "Have It Your Way" slogan, but Verizon seems to be picking up the mantle with a new "skinny TV" package that combines broadband with a customizable TV service that includes a set number of basic channels—including local broadcast channels—with add-on programming packs that can be swapped out each month.
The new service, called FiOS Custom TV, launches this Sunday. The lowest-priced TV plan starts at $55 per month, but it doesn't include broadband. A better deal, we think, is the $65-per-month package that bundles 25Mbps broadband service with about 35 fixed basic channels, both local broadcast channels and cable TV networks such as AMC, CNN, Food Network, and HGTV. As part of the plan, you can choose two of seven available genre-based add-on packs, each of which contains an average of 10 to 17 channels. If you decide you don't like the add-ons or simply want to try another, you can change them every month at no charge.
Other channel packs include Kids, Entertainment, Lifestyle, News & Info, Pop Culture, and Sports. The Kids pack includes Nickelodeon, while sports fans get two options: the Sports Channel Pack, which includes ESPN, FOX Sports and more; and the Sports Plus Channel Pack, which includes regional sports networks and specialty programming such as NFL Network, MLB Network, NBA TV, NHL Network and Golf Channel. You can choose from two of these packs as part of you service and add more packs for $10 each per month.
You can also boost the broadband speed for an additional monthly fee. The plan with the base TV package and 50Mbps broadband costs $75 per month, while a 75Mbps plan costs $85 a month. Triple-play deals that include phone are also available, and cost from $75 per month (for TV, two channel packs, and 25Mbps broadband) to $95 per month (with 75Mbps broadband).
FiOS Custom TV might not be the best plan if you're trying to save a ton of money on your monthly expenses, but $65 for both decent broadband and a respectable TV package may be less than what you are paying now. No premium cable channels, such as HBO, are included, though you can add HBO Now separately for $15 more per month.
But Verizon's new service does include something missing from many other alternative online TV packages: a way to get broadcast TV without having to resort to an antenna for over-the-air reception. And the ability to swap add-on packs every month will not only give you a chance to check out other packages but also to see which ones you're actually able to live without.
While it still seems unlikely that we'll see true à la carte TV programming any time in the near future, Verizon—and some other Internet-based services, such as the recently launched Sling TV and Apple's upcoming TV service—are offering an unprecedented number of alternatives to traditional pay TV services. Increasingly, you can can choose the channels and shows you actually want to see, without having to pay for those you don't. And that's a positive trend, anyway you look at it.
—James K. Willcox