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Verizon Tinkers With FiOS TV Tiers

Verizon, evidently looking to drive up the margins on its video service, has split its FiOS TV packages into two tiers — one for the HD haves, and the other for the HD have-not-so-much-es.

The $57.99-per-month FiOS TV Extreme HD tier, with more than 50 high-def channels, will become the core package. That replaces the $47.99-per-month Premier package. 

At the same time, Verizon is introducing a new $47.99-per-month package, called Essentials, that basically includes only local broadcast HDs (up to 9, depending on market) with the 200-plus standard-def channels.

So — looks like a price increase, right?

Verizon objects to that characterization, because it says Extreme HD is a brand-new service. Reps also point out there are discounts available from the listed monthly fees for customers who buy service bundles. In addition, the Extreme tier is being offered at $47.99 in the highly competitive New York market, where Time Warner Cable and Cablevision are fighting to hold share.

While Premier subs will initially be "grandfathered" in, able to receive the same HD programming available with Extreme HD, they won’t be able to access the additional HD programming that Verizon is promising to add without upgrading to the Extreme tier.

But the bottom line is: If you want any HD cable channels from Verizon and you’re a new subscriber, your only choice is the higher-priced option.

Both Extreme HD and Essentials are on offer in New York metro area, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Portland, Ore., and Fort Wayne, Ind. The telco expects to roll out the packages across all FiOS TV markets soon including Southern California, North Texas, the Florida Gulf Coast and Buffalo, N.Y.