Comcast has increased its ‘Broadcast TV’ and ‘Regional Sports’ fees by a combined 241 percent in just three years, far more than any other major pay TV provider in that time period.
The nation’s largest cable operator first added a regional sports fee to subscriber bills in January 2015 with a $1 a month surcharge. But the sports fee is now $6.75 a month, effective this month. That’s a 575 percent increase.
The Broadcast TV fee, which was $3.25 a month in January 2015, is now $7.75 a month, which is an increase of 138 percent.
Combined, Comcast subscribers in most markets pay $14.50 a month for the two fees which the cable operator, and other pay TV services, say are designed to offset the rising costs of licensing the rights to carry local channels and regional sports networks.
While those costs have risen, no one is claiming they have risen 241 percent in three years, or anywhere close to that amount.
Comcast isn’t the only major pay TV operator which has raised the fees in the last three years.
For instance, Charter, the second largest cable operator, last July raised its ‘broadcast fee’ to $7.50 a month, which is roughly an increase of 43 percent since 2015. DIRECTV, which imposes a monthly sports fee on packages that offer regional sports channels, has bumped the fee up by roughly 60 percent in the last three years, effective with a price increase this month.
The nation’s largest satellite TV service now charges as much as $8.29 a month for the sports fee, depending upon the market.
Dish, the second largest satcaster, and the fourth biggest pay TV operator overall, does not charge a sports or broadcast fee. In fact, Dish uses that distinction in its marketing efforts, noting the difference between its service and Comcast, Charter and DIRECTV.
It’s unclear if the decision to refrain from sports and broadcast fees has helped Dish, but the satcaster, like its rivals, has increasingly seen its subscriber numbers fall of late. And while Dish has not implemented the broadcast and sports fees, the satcaster, again, like its rivals, has annually increased its programming package fees since 2015.
However, Comcast’s record-setting fees could be contributing somewhat to its subscriber defections. The rising cost of the monthly bill is the major reason consumers give for dropping their pay TV service. If a Comcast subscriber has a monthly video charge of $100, that would mean the two fees — fees that Comcast didn’t begin imposing until 2014 — would represent about 15 percent of the total bill.
Over the course of a year, the Comcast video sub would pay $174 alone in sports and broadcast fees.
Comcast had 22.375 million residential video subscribers in the first quarter of 2015. In the third quarter of 2017, the company’s last reporting period, the cable op had 21.341 million residential video subs, which is a drop of about one million.
The fees are particularly irksome to some because they are not included in the promotional price for a Comcast program package, such as $50 a month for its ‘Digital Starter’ plan. The sports and broadcast fees are noted in the fine print under the description of the package.
But after you add the sports and broadcast surcharges — and the $10 a month ‘HD programming fee,’ which is added if you have HD channels — the first-year promotional price for the Digital Starter plan is suddenly $75 a month.
Few things infuriate consumers more than ‘hidden costs.’
Subscribers might be even more upset if they knew that Comcast actually owned numerous regional sports channels, and local NBC broadcast affiliates,.
Consequently, Comcast is actually one of the companies demanding higher broadcast and sports carriage payments which the sports and broadcast fees are designed to offset.
— Phillip Swann