Google Fiber to Offer Premium Sports Tier for Cable TV Programming

Much has been talked about Google Fiber’s ultra high speed internet, but not as much has been said about the cable TV offerings from the project. Next month in Kansas City, Google Fiber will introduce a premium sports TV tier similar to those offered by DIRECTV and Charter Communications.

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A spokeswoman verified that Google Fiber distributed a note to customers relaying word about the coming change, which will involve moving the Longhorn Network, The Sportsman Channel and TVG from its standard channel lineup to a new Premium Sports Package.

The new package will also include NFL Red Zone, MLB Strike Zone, Universal Sports, Gol TV, Outside TV and HRTV, “among others.”

“We’ll be reaching out again in early August with pricing information and additional details, once the Premium Sports package becomes available for Fiber TV customers to add-on to their existing service plan,” Google Fiber said, in the communique.

Google Fiber’s decision offload sports programming costs is part of a wider trend. For example, Verizon FiOS TV launched a $9.99 “Sports Pass” add-on tier in April.

Google Fiber only offers TV service when bundled with its 1 Gbps broadband service. That $120 per month package includes a Nexus 7 tablet, and one Google Fiber TV box. Customers can purchase additional TV boxes for $120 or rent them out for $5 per month each.

The base Google Fiber TV lineup currently offers 172 channels. Google hawks a premium package of HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Encore and Showtime channels for $40 per month, or $20 for an HBO-only package, $10 for the Cinemax multiplex, or $10 for a Starz/Encore combo.

Google Fiber currently delivers services to two “fiberhoods” in Kansas City, Kan., but has several more in the process of being connected there, as well as in Kansas City, Mo. Google Fiber has also secured franchise deals in several nearby communities, including Mission, Shawnee, and Olathe, Kan.; and Lee’s Summit, Gladstone, and Grandview, Mo.

Outside of the K.C. area, also has plans to start connecting homes in Austin, Texas, by mid-2014, and has a deal in place to take over and upgrade the iProvo fiber network in Provo, Utah. A Google Fiber spokeswoman denied speculation that it has already begun to connect homes in Provo, noting that the deal is not yet closed.

More on Google Fiber’s TV options as they become available here at the TV, Internet and Phone Blog.

Sports TV Costs Constantly Escalating

Speaking at the Cable Show convention last week, ESPN and Turner Broadcasting executives said they believe there is no stopping the escalating costs for sports television. ESPN is currently the most expensive cable network in terms of the fees cable TV and satellite TV distributors must pay, due to ESPN’s rights for NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, and several college sports leagues, including ESPN’s new $3.6 billion deal with the ACC running through 2026.

DVR technology, streaming television shows and movies from Netflix and sites like Hulu, and other means of consumption have made sports the last remaining appointment television, which makes sporting events valuable to advertisers and to cable TV providers and satellite television providers. Cable operators have seen fees for ESPN and TNT, which holds broadcast rights for NBA, NASCAR and NCAA basketball, continue to rise.

These rising costs put cable and satellite TV operators in a tough spot, as the fees they are charged to be able to air ESPN, TNT and other sports content continue to rise and those fees must be passed on to customers, but customers do not want to see prices for satellite or cable TV packages continue to increase, especially when there are more and more options out there for viewing many programs online or through streaming services.

Some cable operators have considered putting sports programming on its own subscription tier, but have faced resistance, as many households see sports channels like ESPN as the backbone of any cable or satellite TV package. Sports TV is necessary for keeping cable and satellite TV providers afloat, but it is also a huge cost drain. Hopefully, the networks and providers can come to an agreement to make everything work out and continue bringing the highest quality sports programming to the viewers who watch it.