Happy New Year, Comcast Customers: Your ‘Broadcast TV’ & ‘Regional Sports’ Fees Are Going Up 50%

Image courtesy of Comcast

The new year brings new things, and at this point it’s all but traditional for cable and satellite companies to announce customers will face higher charges in January than in the December before. But Comcast isn’t just increasing its bundle rates a few percentage points in 2017; it’s going to significantly increase how much all of its pay-TV customers pay for a pair of highly controversial fees.

Comcast customers around the nation have received notices this month that prices are indeed going up as of Jan. 1, 2017. And that includes all prices — TV bundles, double- and triple-play bundles, internet and phone prices, all of it, with some geographic variation. But the most egregious increase is perhaps in two line-item fees that Comcast doesn’t include in its bundle pricing: the “Broadcast TV” and “Regional Sports” fees.

When we broke down a real-life Comcast bill in February, our customer was paying a total of $8 for the Broadcast TV and Regional Sports fees.

That same customer recently sent us the table of fee increases Comcast is imposing in their region on Jan. 1. The Broadcast TV fee is increasing from $5 to $7 and the Regional Sports fee from $3 to $5. That means the total combined fee is going from $8 to $12 — a staggering 50% increase, equating to an extra $48 a year just for these two fees.

Comcast customers all over the country have sent in their notices to other tech sites, including Ars Technica and DSL Reports, showing the same fee increases.

As we’ve explained before, Comcast says it imposes these after-the-fact fees to recoup costs associated with purchasing the right to distribute programming. Since the 1990s, local broadcast stations have been permitted to negotiate their retransmission rates with cable companies, and cable companies have been permitted to pass costs through to consumers.

Similarly, Comcast and other companies charge extra for recouping the cost of carrying regional sports networks in your package, whether or not you want them. (It can be almost impossible to get a bundle without.) Those are the “Regional Sports Fees,” without which Comcast says that it’s simply too expensive to carry whatever channel is playing sports ball in your neck of the woods.

But Comcast owns many of the regional sports networks it puts in your package. They’re NBC Sports channels. Which means that Comcast customers are paying that fee so Comcast can bring you Comcast-owned stations that you may or may not ever watch.

As we also noted when we reviewed cable bills, though, there’s also already a pass-through charge for recouping retransmission fees on your bill, and it’s your bill.

A group of customers from seven states filed a lawsuit against Comcast in federal court in California in October over these two fees.

The complaint claims that by not clearly disclosing these fees when advertising or signing customers up for services, it’s committing false advertising.

“Comcast intentionally does not explain or define what the Broadcast TV Fee and the Regional Sports Fee are – even in the fine print,” argues the complaint. “Instead, Comcast deceptively groups these ‘fees’ in the fine print with ‘taxes and fees, including regulatory recovery fees.’ A consumer reading the fine print would reasonably assume the Broadcast TV Fee and the Regional Sports Fee relate to government fees or taxes.”

That case, however, is facing a significant uphill battle just to be heard in court, since Comcast is one of the many major companies out there that shuts all customers into mandatory binding arbitration that bars your right to a class-action suit.