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Comcast set to hike broadcast fee for customers

The Comcast logo is seen on a retail store in Sacramento, California on July 3, 2015. (Photo: Matthew Keys / The Desk)
The Comcast logo is seen on a retail store in Sacramento, California on July 3, 2015. (Photo: Matthew Keys / The Desk)

If you’re a Comcast TV customer, your bill is about to go up again.

Comcast, the largest cable operator in the country and second-largest pay TV company behind AT&T, is notorious for tacking on extra surcharges and fees in addition to core service charges for TV and Internet service.

Like many cable and satellite companies, Comcast pays programmers for the right to retransmit channels on its platform. That includes local channels like ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX — channels that many customers can receive in their areas for free with an antenna.

A few years ago, Comcast began passing along the carriage costs of those channels in the form of a surcharge known as a “broadcast fee.” Until last year, the fee was a nominal $1 a month (or $12 a year), something most customers probably overlooked on their bills.

But customers started noticing the fee last year when it was inexplicably hiked to $3.25 a month ($39 a year). Comcast said then that the increase was necessary because programmers had demanded more money for the right to retransmit local channels.

In a notice appearing on billing statements this month, Comcast says the fee will increase again to $5 a month ($60 a year) for those same channels. The fee increase will apply in March, though new customers won’t be affected by it until July 1, the notice says.

Comcast charges the same broadcast fee for all customers, even in areas where the company owns the local NBC station (NBCUniversal, which operates 10 stations in cities like San Francisco and San Diego, is owned by Comcast). And because Comcast folds local channels into all of its video packages, the fee applies to anyone who receives television programming through the cable company.

Comcast brought in nearly $2 billion in profit on $19.2 billion in revenue last quarter, according to an earnings report published on the company’s website.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).