Unless you go line-by-line on your cable or satellite bill, you may not be aware of the add-on fees that are tacked on to your monthly base packages. Those fees can add up. Comcast is being sued over its fees and Charter is under a similar lawsuit. Now DirecTV is under scrutiny for its regional sports fees.

Depending on where you live, you could pay nothing or as much as $7.29 per month. In one city, the fees can vary ranging from $0 to $2.47, $5.63 or $7.29 even though subscribers all have access to the same regional sports network. The difference could be as much as $87 per year.

Connie, a reader of the Consumerist blog pointed this out and noticed the regional sports fee on her bill. She used the DirecTV online tool to look up her neighboring zip codes and saw the different charges in the same market, then tried to get an answer from the satellite provider as to why the fees varied so much. She got a weak response:

“What DirecTV has failed to answer is why they have such different fees, all allegedly in the same sports market and all within 25 miles of each other,” Connie tells Consumerist. “It just makes no sense to me other than something is not right here.”

While some areas such as New England, New York and California are all charged the same (and expensive) $7.29 per month, there are some variations in markets like Philadelphia and Minneapolis that have some zip codes paying more than others.

DirecTV doesn’t carry the Comcast SportsNet affiliate in Philadelphia so it’s not a surprise that most areas in the market aren’t charged the fee, but some zip codes like 19143 are paying $4.53 per month while 19148 is being charged $5.83 per month and there are some neighboring New Jersey communities that aren’t paying any fee while others pay $7.29. Why?

In Minneapolis, Consumerist found most zip codes being charged $4.53 per month except two, one where the University of Minnesota was based which was not charged but the other was paying $5.83. Again why?

Consumerist also noticed similar variations in Chicago.

Consumerist sent its information to DirecTV and was told “[Regional sports network] content and thus the costs charged by providers vary significantly by ZIP code.” The site gave DirecTV another query:

We sent a follow-up question, asking DirecTV why two adjoining ZIP codes would have regional sports fees that differ by as much as $87/year. The company has not yet provided a response.

But regional sports networks don’t charge or transmit their content by zip code, they send out their signals so they can be seen in various markets and states plus they get their money from pay TV providers (cable, satellite or online) in a blanket per subscriber fee.

DirecTV doesn’t have a good response for this and by not giving a direct answer, it shows that executives are in essence hiding under their desks. Subscribers are beginning to hit back and we’ll see if the lawsuits against the pay TV providers gain any traction.

Consumers don’t like when they’re being duped and the regional sports fee is an example of a company trying to make money off of a silly monthly charge.

[Consumerist]

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.