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Is how much sports networks cost too much for us?

It seems that it's a monthly ritual at Awful Announcing. We report on a new cable or satellite carriage dispute between a regional or national sports network. You get mad until an agreement is reached. And the cost gets passed to you.

The Los Angeles Dodgers-centric SportsNet LA has launched in Southern California, but it has not been gaining traction with providers other than Time Warner Cable which owns the channel. SEC Network which will launch in August has picked up Dish Network, but is struggling to find other takers.

Regional and college sports networks used to be the core for cable and satellite providers. However, as they get more expensive, the cable companies are balking at their price. DirecTV has been holding steady in its refusal to pick up new channels unless they're cost effective. Its dispute with Pac-12 Networks is in its second year and it has not picked up Comcast SportsNet Houston, SportsNet LA, Longhorn Network and does not appear in any hurry to make an agreement for SEC Network.

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Dish Network does carry Pac-12 Networks, but refuses to pick up YES, MSG and SNY in New York and is one of the holdouts for SportsNet LA.

The whole issue is money and the cost per subscriber each network charges the providers. If you follow the business, you'll know that ESPN is the most expensive cable network charging providers over $5 per subscriber. Cable and satellite customers pay for the channel whether they watch or not. SportsNet LA's cost is in the range of $4-5 per subscriber which makes it one of the most expensive local sports channels in the country and it's only for the Dodgers. Time Warner Cable SportsNet LA which concentrates mostly on the Lakers is estimated at $3.95 per. 

This increased cost for sports is why your cable and satellite bill goes up. DirecTV subscribers saw a 4,4% price hike at the end of 2013. 

And these disputes don't just pertain to sports. DirecTV recently dropped The Weather Channel citing the cost and it picked up the cheaper WeatherNation in its place. 

The model of charging cable and satellite providers per subscriber is getting more expensive and as more cable providers balk at paying the price, these disputes between provider and programmers will continue. 

Will it mean more channels go Over The Top as WWE Network has done or will the bubble burst? All this will play out over the next few years. Don't be surprised to see programmers bypass the middle man for new projects and go directly to the consumer. But as long as television remains a big part of the landscape, expect your bills to rise consistently as well. 

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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