One of the more interesting media discussions in a while has been about what local broadcast networks can charge cable and satellite companies for retransmission of their signals, and the latest news on that front comes from Charter Communications. As per Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica, Charter is set to raise its broadcast television fee for the second time in four months, and that’s not thrilling many:
Charter Communications will raise its “broadcast TV” fee from $9.95 to $11.99 on March 1, only four months after the previous fee increase.
…Charter previously raised the broadcast TV fee from $8.85 to $9.95 a month in November as part of a larger price increase for both cable TV and broadband services. (These price increases happened despite Charter lowering its spending on capital improvements to its cable network and services.)
The new broadcast TV fee increase to $11.99 coming on March 1 was reported last week by the Los Angeles Times, and Charter confirmed the change to Ars yesterday.
“It is accurate that the Broadcast TV Surcharge will increase to $11.99, effective March 1, across Spectrum markets,” a Charter spokesperson told Ars. “The charge continues to reflect the rapidly rising cost of local broadcast channels.”
Yes, many broadcast networks are trying to charge more than they have previously, and that’s been a factor in some carriage disputes across the country. And yes, viewers could conceivably buy an antenna and pick up those broadcast networks anyway, even if their cable provider doesn’t pay a retransmission fee. But having broadcast networks included in a cable or satellite package is still important for many viewers, and that’s what’s led to a lot of the pushback against fee increases.
And this Charter increase carries particular issues for those who had already agreed to contracts. As the Ars Technica piece notes, this rate increase applies “even to customers who agreed to deals that ostensibly lock in a specific monthly rate during a set period.” So even if you have a deal that sets a particular rate, it’s still higher than what you agreed to thanks to this increase. And that’s not great for consumers. But that speaks to the larger overall state of retransmission deals. And with broadcast networks looking for more money in retransmission fees in general, it probably won’t only be Charter affected by this.