For many Central Texans, the cost of cable TV is about to go up.
Time Warner Cable, the area’s dominant cable provider, says it will increase several of its monthly fees starting as soon as next week. Other carriers, including AT&T, have also announced plans to hike rates this year.
Cable and satellite companies say escalating programming costs paid to local broadcast stations and national cable networks are primarily to blame for the higher prices.
“We do everything we can to control programming costs, but the exorbitant increases in sports and broadcast programming fees are the driving force behind these customer increases,” said Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Melissa Sorola.
The exact amounts cable and satellite companies pay per channel aren’t typically made public, but fees Time Warner Cable pays to carry local broadcast stations such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates have soared 60 percent in the past two years, according to Sorola. That’s why Time Warner is raising its broadcast TV surcharge from $2.25 per month to $2.75 per month.
Fees for sports programming have gone up even more, Sorola said. Since 2008, Time Warner Cable says its payments to sports networks such as ESPN have jumped 91 percent. That’s why Time Warner Cable is implementing a new $2.75 monthly sports programming surcharge.
Several other cable and satellite providers already have sports programming surcharges in place.
“The broadcast TV and sports programming surcharges listed on customer bills represent only a fraction of what we actually pay for broadcast TV and sports content,” Sorola said.
There’s no way for customers to opt out of paying the new fees by dropping broadcast and sports networks while keeping other channels not subject to the surcharges, Sorola said.
For most customers, the new fees take effect with the billing cycle that begins Monday. But about a third of all Time Warner Cable’s Central Texas customers won’t immediately see the broadcast TV surcharge increase and the new sports programming surcharge on their bills because they’re signed up for promotional packages, Sorola said.
Also this month, the prices for HBO and Movie Pass will both rise $2 to $16.99 and $8.99 per month, respectively.
Other charges Time Warner Cable will raise include fees for digital adapters and Internet modem leases. Customers can avoid the charge for leasing a modem by acquiring a Time Warner Cable-approved modem from retailers such as Best Buy, Sorola said.
“For customers who do choose to lease a modem from us, we’re investing millions of dollars in deploying new modems that support faster speeds and a better Internet experience in all our markets,” Sorola said. “Plus those customers are guaranteed full support and maintenance for their Time Warner Cable modem, including replacement of any malfunctioning modems.”
AT&T’s U-verse rate hikes will appear on billing statements beginning Feb. 1, a spokeswoman said. Prices for many popular plans will grow by $3 per month, while the broadcast TV surcharge will increase by $1. The prices for some receivers will also go up $1.
Customers who are receiving a special U-verse promotional rate will not see the higher charges until their promotional rate expires, AT&T said.
A look at the new (and previous) monthly fees charged by Time Warner Cable:
- Digital adapter: $2.75 ($1.50)
- Internet modem lease: $8 ($5.99)
- Broadcast TV surcharge: $2.75 ($2.25)
- Sports programming surcharge: $2.75 (N/A)
- HBO: $16.99 ($14.99)
- Movie Pass: $8.99 ($6.99)