The Average Cost of Cable Fees Keeps Rising

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As more consumers work to save money by cutting the cord on cable, it’s a good time to examine exactly how much money cable fees can cost you. Although you may be assuming that cable costs are going down due to rising competition from streaming services, that’s unfortunately not the case.

Background

Cable television firms have been bleeding subscribers as lower-cost alternatives have hit the market, with a net loss of about 1,530,000 subscribers in early 2019. A 2018 study by Leichtman Research revealed that the mean monthly spending on pay-TV service among subscribers was about $107. That’s a 30% increase over the average cost of $75 per month back in 2010. Naturally, the streaming providers are working to capitalize on consumer anger over those price increases, reminding viewers that their services are much more cost-effective and offer more a la carte options than the cable packages. 

And those reminders seem to be working because, in 2018, the number of streaming subscriptions (613.3 million) surpassed the number of pay cable subscribers (556 million) for the first time ever, according to data from the Motion Picture Association of America.

Many Americans subscribe to multiple subscription services, giving them more freedom than the packages that most cable outlets offer.

Check These Carriers’ Fee Increases

If you’re still paying for cable television, you may have noticed that your prices went up this year, so we’ve researched the amounts and have broken them down below.

  • AT&T U-verse: Although the cost of the firm’s U-Basic plan didn’t rise this year, all of its other subscriptions did increase. The U-family and U100 plans rose $3 per month, while the U200 and U300 plans both went up by $5 each monthly. Those who have plans in the U400 range saw an increase of $7 per month in 2019. And those fee increases are in addition to an across-the-board “broadcast surcharge fee” of $2 per month for each program. These fee increases rose effective Jan. 20, 2019, and AT&T attributed the costs to a rise in programming costs.
  • Comcast: Citing rising costs as the other subscription services have, Comcast raised its rates effective Jan. 1, 2019 as well. Its “broadcast TV fee” rose from $8 to $10 monthly, while the “regional sports fee” increased from $6.25 to $8.25. In addition, Comcast boosted its modem rental fee by $2 a month, although customers are free to purchase their own modems. However, the company decided to offer some good news just this week with the announcement that subscribers of its Xfinity internet service will now get a free subscription to its Xfinity Flex streaming service. “Xfinity Flex gives customers a radically simple, aggregated television experience that personalizes their streaming choices across a sea of apps and services,” said Comcast’s Matt Strauss in a press release about the offering.
  • DirecTV: Also owned by AT&T, DirecTV boosted its fees in line with the cost increases seen in its U-verse plans. The company’s Basic Choice subscription rose just $1 per month in January, but the firm’s other plans shot up by between $3 and $8 monthly, with the Premier, Lo Maximo, and Opcion Premier subscriptions rising the most. The company’s Sports Tiers also cost more in 2019 over 2018, rising by up to $1.90 a month each. Again, the company pointed to increased “programming costs” as the reason for the fee upcharges.
  • DISH Network: DISH boosted its prices significantly between 2018 and 2019, with its basic “Welcome Pack” rising from $22.99 last year to a startling $29.99 this year, with most other packages following suit. These across-the-board price increases have upset customers, who are growing weary of the constant changes.
  • Optimum/Altice: Although Altice has been known to raise the price of its Optimum cable television service annually, the company is trying to hop off the train now and offer a unique solution with its new “Price for Life” offer. Included in the package are over 220 television channels, and a home internet service for $64.99 a month, and that price is set for the life of the service, without being locked into a contract.
  • Spectrum/Charter Communications: Although its “broadcast fee” was just $9.95 last October, Spectrum reportedly boosted that charge to $11.99 monthly this past February. This is a whopping 21% increase, and that’s just to the base service.

What Recourse Do You Have for Price Changes?

If these types of price increases have you feeling ready to join the legions of people who are cutting the cable cord, there are some things you can do before pulling the trigger on canceling your cable subscription. 

First, you can contact your cable provider and let them know that the costs are prohibitively expensive and ask whether the customer service department can offer any discounts that will allow you to save money. In many cases, cable providers are happy to help you keep costs in line if you simply ask.

You will have more of a leg to stand on in this situation if you happen to have competitors’ prices in-hand when you make that call, so it’s a good idea to collect the prices of comparable cable packages from your provider’s competitors before calling. 

That way, if they ask which cable provider you’re planning to use instead, you can say, for example, “Sorry Comcast, I am going to DirecTV due to a savings of $20 per month on the same package,” and then Comcast may be willing to match the price.

In the event that you’ve absolutely had it with the cable companies, you can always try getting a TV antenna, which is much better than they were decades ago and can provide you with free viewing service of most of the broadcast networks at a one-time cost of less than $50.

Article Sources

  1. Leichtman Research Group. "Major Pay-TV Providers Lost About 1,530,000 Subscribers in 2Q 2019," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  2. Leichtman Research Group. "78% of TV Households Subscribe to a Pay-TV Service," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  3. Benton Institute for Broadband & Society. "Your Guide to Cutting the Cord to Cable TV," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  4. Motion Picture Association of America. "2018 Theme Report," Page 3. Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  5. AT&T. "TV Price Changes for 2019," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  6. Comcast. "Services & Pricing," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  7. Dish Network. "2019 Programming Rates," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  8. Dish Network. "2018 Programming Rates," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  9. Optimum. "Price for Life," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.

  10. Hatt's Law. "Lawsuit Against Charter Spectrum For Hidden Broadcast TV Surcharge Fee," Accessed Oct. 17, 2019.