If you get your cable through Spectrum, prepare for your bill to inexplicably go up next month. According to the Los Angeles Times, Spectrum will increase its “broadcast TV” fee — which subscribers pay to access local channels — from $9.95 to $11.99 on March 1st. This in itself shouldn’t surprise cable subscribers, as fee increases are a dime a dozen lately, but the hike comes just four months after the same fee was increased from $8.85.
As the LA Times explains, this is said to be the result of a recent battle between Charter Communications (the parent company of Spectrum) and Tribune Media. Multiple channels were dropped from the service last month, but the two sides eventually settled, and the new price is theoretically to help Charter recoup the costs.
But, as the LA Times points out, Charter has over 16 million pay-TV subscribers as of 2018. An additional $2.04 on every bill will bring $392 million in added annual revenue. Whether or not Charter actually needs that much to pay off a settlement that has nothing to do with its subscribers, the customers will end up paying the price regardless. “This charge reflects the rapidly rising cost of local broadcast channels,” a spokesman said.
Spectrum also provides a longer explanation for why this broadcast TV surcharge exists on its website:
As a direct result of local broadcast or “network-affiliated” TV stations in recent years dramatically increasing the rates to Charter Communications to distribute their signals to our customers, we’re forced to pass those charges on as a “Broadcast TV Surcharge.” These local TV signals were historically made available to us at no cost or low cost. However, in recent years the prices demanded by local broadcast TV stations have necessitated that we pass these costs on to customers.
Ars Technica adds that the broadcast TV fee isn’t included in any of the cable company’s advertised rates, so no matter what plan you think you’re signing up for, that $11.99 charge will be hidden in the fine print. Furthermore, it does not matter if you think you’re “locked in” to a rate — Spectrum can bump the broadcast TV fee at any time, no matter what you think the initial offer implied. You likely wouldn’t have even been able to figure out why your bill had suddenly increased if you hadn’t read a report like this in the first place.