It’s probably no surprise that pay-TV packages are more expensive this year than in 2018. Prices rise every year. But you might be surprised at the size of the increase once you get your bill.

Advertised rates generally climb 3 to 4 percent annually, but so do the add-on charges, such as “broadcast TV fees” and “regional sports fees.”

Those cable TV fees aren’t featured prominently in promotional materials, and it’s hard to know what you’ll really be paying up front even if you call to negotiate a better deal. We’ve gathered information on 2019 pricing for most of the major cable TV providers, below.

Cable companies told Consumer Reports that price hikes are driven mainly by their rising costs for carrying broadcast networks, such as CBS and Fox, plus regional sports channels. According to some analyst estimates, these costs have climbed between 8 and 10 percent in each of the past four years.

“With declines in subscribers, increased programming costs are a real issue for pay-TV providers, as any increase in cost cannot be made up for by expanding the subscriber base,” says Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst at Leichtman Research Group.

more on watching TV

If costs are rising, why not just raise the advertised prices? According to a 2017 report by the Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau, TV providers use the fees to cover rising costs while pulling in consumers with lower advertised prices.

The price hikes are helping to fuel cord cutting, as consumers drop traditional TV plans in favor of streaming options and antennas. In the third quarter of 2018, traditional TV providers lost about 1.1 million subscribers, the largest quarterly loss ever, according to the research firm MoffettNathanson. 

Here’s what’s happening at most of the major TV providers. Note that prices may vary by region. We’re still waiting to hear back from Verizon and will update the info when we get it.


If you’re thinking about cutting the cord, read our HDTV antenna review.
 

How Much Your Cable TV Bill Is Rising

AT&T: At the end of January, AT&T raised prices from $3 to $7 per month on most U-verse plans. One exception is U-basic, which didn’t get a price hike. The company is also upping its broadcast TV fee by $2 per month on all plans, including U-basic.

In announcing the increases, AT&T, like most other companies, blamed rising programming costs for the price hikes. If you currently have a promotional package, you’ll keep that price until the promotion ends. But if you change your base package, you might not be eligible for the promotional offer anymore. 

Altice/Optimum: Altice raised its TV rates by an average of 3 percent this year. Effective this month, the company upped its broadcast TV surcharge by $1 to $6 per month, and its sports TV fee by $1 to $9 per month.

“Altice USA continues to invest in its network and advanced product set to deliver more choice and value to our customers, from our fiber network expansion and new Altice One entertainment experience to our upcoming new mobile service,” an Altice spokesperson told CR. “Like other pay-TV providers, we are also impacted by increasing fees charged by broadcasters and programmers, of which we pass along just a fraction of the rising costs to our customers.”


Frustrated over unexpected fees? Read about Consumer Reports’ What the Fee?! campaign  and sign our petition on cable TV fees.

Charter/Spectrum: In a notice to some customers, Charter says it will be hiking its broadcast TV fee March 1, when the monthly rate goes from $10 to $12 per month. This latest increase comes on the heels of another broadcast TV increase in November, which saw the monthly fee go from $9 to $10 per month. The fee hike applies even to those who are locked into a deal at a set monthly rate. The company says the price hikes were prompted by “the rapidly rising cost of local broadcast channels.”

Charter also increased its fee for renting a receiver from $7 to $7.50 per month, and the cost of renting a digital adapter from $5 to $6 per month. On the bright side, Charter—unlike many of its competitors—doesn’t charge a fee for regional sports and doesn’t impose data caps on its broadband customers. 

Comcast: Comcast raised prices for some customers in January. Among the fee increases, you’ll now pay a $10-per-month broadcast TV fee, up from $8 per month, and the monthly add-on for regional sports networks jumps from $6.50 to $8.25. These fees will apply even if you’re locked into a plan at a set price. You can also expect to pay an additional $13 per month—a $2-per-month bump—to rent a modem, though you can avoid this fee by buying your own. The increases will be rolled out in waves, so only some customers will see the increases immediately.

“While we try to hold costs down, price changes are necessary for a number of reasons, including the continually increasing costs associated with carrying the programming our customers demand, especially broadcast television and sports programming, which are the largest drivers of price increases,” a Comcast spokesperson told CR. “The company also continues to make investments in our network and technology to give customers more for their money.” 

Cox Communications: A Cox spokesman says the company is raising some of its prices by a small amount. “Average increase amounts vary based on where customers are located and what products and services they’re using,” he says.

The average sports charge is going up by 50 cents, while the broadcast TV surcharge climbs $2.50. Based on current information on its website, Cox is now charging up to $10 per month in broadcast TV fees and up to $8 per month in regional sports fees, depending on the package. Customers who are paying promotional rates can keep them until those deals expire.

“The rising cost of programming continues to be the biggest driver,” the spokesman tells CR. “We are continuing to add new features like those mentioned last year, and we’re integrating popular over-the-top online content services such as Netflix and YouTube,” which are now searchable via the program guide and the company’s voice remote.

DirecTV: DirecTV, which is owned by AT&T, raised prices by $1 to $8 per month, depending on the plan, in January. There’s no hike, however, for the company’s basic Family Package. Regional sports fees range from no increase (for Tier 1) to $1.90 more per month on the other five tiers. DirecTV doesn’t appear to be increasing broadcast TV fees separately. AT&T also offers the DirecTV Now streaming service, which costs $45 per month.

“Because our programming costs went up, we have to raise our monthly prices for select packages starting January 20, 2019," said a statement on the company’s website.

Dish Networks: Dish Network, which also owns the Sling TV streaming service, raised rates by $3 to $5 per month, though the standard monthly price of DishLatino packages decreased by $2 to $5 per month because Univision has removed its content from Dish’s lineup. Customers who signed up for a two- or three-year TV price guarantee, or other promotional pricing, will continue to be charged the same price for their core package until the guarantee or promotional period ends.

“All pay-TV providers have had to accept significant price increases from programmers to carry their channels, including local channels (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC),” a spokesperson told CR. “Dish is absorbing some of the overall cost increase rather than passing everything on to our customers.”

Frontier: Frontier offers a dizzying array of programming packages, including its own Vantage TV service in seven states, plus the FiOS TV service it acquired as part of a deal with Verizon. It also resells satellite service from Dish. The company raised rates for some customers last fall, with prices for its basic Vantage service going up almost $3 per month, and expanded basic going up between $7.40 and $7.90 per month. The company currently charges nearly $6 per month as a broadcast TV fee, and its regional sports charge of $11.78 per month is among the highest we’ve seen.

Verizon: Verizon hasn’t responded to multiple requests for pricing information, and we haven’t been able to confirm any recent Verizon rate or fee increases so far. Last spring the company raised its regional sports fee from $5 to $7.89 per month and hiked its broadcast TV charge from $2 to $4.50 per month. We’ll update this listing once we hear back from the company or can verify recent price hikes.

What the Fee?!

Are you tired of the endless stream of add-on charges that appear on your bills? On the TV show "Consumer 101," Consumer Reports' expert explains to host Jack Rico how to avoid these pesky fees.