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Bucking cable tradition, Verizon offers custom TV bundles (+video)

Verizon announced FiOS Custom TV, which lets customers pick a basic package of 35 channels and two genre-specific packages of additional channels for $55 per month.

As more and more TV watchers ditch their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon Prime, Verizon is making a move to entice customers to keep their subscriptions.

On Thursday, the company announced FiOS Custom TV, which gives customers more flexibility to choose the channels they want, rather than paying for hundreds they never watch.

FiOS Custom TV isn’t quite an a la carte model for choosing channels, but it’s close. The service offers a base package of 35 channels including local broadcasters, CNN, HGTV, and AMC, and lets customers pick two additional packages of about 15 channels each that fall within a certain genre. If you’ve got children in the house, you might add a Kids package; if you want to get additional current events coverage beyond what CNN offers, you might add the News & Info package.

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The cost of the base package and two additional packages is $55 per month. Customers can also add additional genre packages for $10 each per month. There are seven to choose from: Sports (which includes ESPN), Sports Plus (which includes the NFL network and regional sports channels), News & Info, Pop Culture, Entertainment, Kids, and Lifestyle. Verizon hasn’t yet specified exactly which channels are in each package.

Verizon says it will let customers swap out bundles from month to month. So in theory you could order the Sports package to watch baseball in the spring, then swap it out for a different package once the season ends. Your monthly bill would remain the same no matter which two of the seven genre packages you chose.

The average household’s monthly cable bill is $90 a month, reports The New York Times, so Verizon’s package would be a significant savings. Customers can get standalone FiOS Custom TV for $55 per month; TV and Internet for $65 per month; or TV, Internet, and phone for $75 per month. (Each tier gets somewhat more expensive if you opt to bump up your Internet speed to 50 or 75 megabits per second.)

Verizon is the first major cable provider to offer a “skinny bundle” service, but there are plenty of other, similar services on the market. The online Sling TV service from Dish Network allows customers to stream 20 channels, including ESPN, The History Channel, and A&E, for $20 per month over their broadband connection. And the PlayStation Vue service from Sony includes more than 50 channels for $50 per month.

Verizon will let people sign up for FiOS Custom TV beginning on Sunday, April 19.

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