Comcast is set to raise fees on its pay television subscribers next month, with some paying about $8 more per month for the same service.
Starting in mid-December, Comcast will increase the Broadcast TV fee by $5 to $8, with some subscribers paying as much as $27 a month for local stations that, in most cases, they can receive for free with a simple, over-the-air antenna. Last month, Comcast said it had around 16 million residential customers and 609,000 business customers paying for television service. The figure was a decrease of about 1.8 million residential customers and 104,000 business customers compared to the same time in 2021.
Comcast’s customers who want cable television service through the company can’t escape the Broadcast TV fee, because local channels are included in all Comcast Xfinity cable television packages. Like other companies, Comcast justifies the Broadcast TV fee by saying the service maintains carriage agreements with local channels that provide ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CW and other network programming. That fee is baked into Comcast’s contract with broadcasters, which is known as a carriage agreement, and the fee is passed on to consumers accordingly.
While some companies like DirecTV and Dish Network have opted in recent years to drop local stations for a period of time (a practice known as a carriage dispute), Comcast has more or less simply renewed carriage agreements with local broadcast station providers. One positive benefit is that Comcast customers have not had to go without their in-market local stations, while the same can’t be said for some customers who have DirecTV or Dish Network. One downside is those agreements almost always demand more from Comcast to carry the same channels — and that results in fee increases, like the kind Comcast is rolling out next month.
In Massachusetts, one town will see their Broadcast TV fee increase from nearly $19 a month to around $27 a month, an increase of around $8. Residents of the town, Taunton, get network programming on Comcast from more than one market, with multiple Fox, ABC, CBS and PBS stations available on Xfinity cable TV there, which may account for the higher Broadcast TV fee compared to other areas.
In a statement that was sent to The Desk after this article was first published, a Comcast spokesperson said TV networks “continue to raise their prices, with broadcast television and sports being one of the biggest drivers of increases in customers’ bills.”
“We’re continuing to work hard to manage these costs for our customers while investing in our broadband network to provide the best, most reliable Internet service in the country and to give our customers more low-cost choices in video and connectivity so they can find a package that fits their lifestyle and budget,” the spokesperson said. “Our national average increase of 3.8 percent is about half of the most recent rate of inflation.”
The good news is, Comcast customers who aren’t locked into a contract can simply cancel their cable TV service and move to a streaming cable TV alternative, without losing access to most popular local and cable channels. Philo, for instance, offers more than 60 live channels of entertainment, reality, lifestyle, children’s and knowledge programming for $25 a month without a contract. Philo doesn’t carry sports or local channels, though; customers who want local channels and sports networks should consider Sling TV ($40 a month), Vidgo ($60 a month) or YouTube TV ($65 a month).
Most streaming cable alternatives offer generous features like a cloud DVR that stores recordings online for a set period of time (Philo’s cloud DVR is unlimited and saves shows for one year; Sling TV offers 50 hours for free, with multiple upgrade options). Even better, the devices aren’t just limited to watching TV on TV — stream live channels and on-demand content from phones, tablets, game consoles and other devices.