It’s probably no surprise that pay-TV packages are getting more expensive this year. It's an annual routine. But what's less obvious is that while providers have announced only modest increases—generally in the 3 to 4 percent range—they're continuing to impose add-on charges, such as “broadcast TV fees” and “regional sports fees,” that will further inflate your cable bill each month.

And often these additional fees can be imposed even if you're locked into promotional rate for TV service.

According to its most most recent report, the Federal Communications Commission's Media Bureau says that TV providers are adding the fees to cover rising costs while holding down the prices they promote in their advertising. 

The cable companies we contacted said the price hikes are mainly driven by the rising costs they face for carrying traditional broadcast networks, such as CBS and Fox, and regional sports channels. According to some analyst estimates, these costs have climbed between 8 and 10 percent in each of the past four years.


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

more on watching TV

A breakdown of the price increases consumers will see appears below. No price hike is welcome, but companies may be absorbing some of the increased programming costs instead of passing them on to consumers, analysts say.

Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst at Leichtman Research Group, says that the real money for cable companies these days is in selling bundles that include TV programming, internet access, and perhaps phone service.

"The 'traditional’ cable, satellite, and telco services tend to offer larger packages to households that have more TVs and want more options in programming and ways to watch, like DVR and on-demand. Unsurprisingly, these service come at a higher monthly cost," he said. "But it remains in providers’ interests to make video price increases as modest as possible. This is particularly true for cable companies, as they are focused on the majority of customers that get a bundle of services, most significantly internet service, rather than the few that only get TV service from them."

Rising prices, along with more robust streaming services, may be helping fuel the cord-cutting phenomenon as people drop traditional TV plans. Leichtman Research Group's latest analysis of the industry found that pay TV services lost nearly 1.5 million subscribers last year, more than double the number it lost in 2016.

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—we'll add the info when we get it—but as far as we can tell, there have been no 2018 price hikes.

How Much Your Bill Is Rising

AT&T: AT&T U-verse video subscribers will now pay $2 to $8 more per month on most video packages. The price hike doesn't affect AT&T's U-basic plan. The company is also boosting its broadcast TV surcharge from $5 to $6 per month. Like other companies we contacted, AT&T blames the increased cost of acquiring programming for the price hike.

Altice/Optimum: The company, which purchased Suddenlink in 2015 and Cablevision a year later, last increased prices for its Optimum TV service in November 2017, when they went up an average of 2.4 percent. For example, the cost of its “Broadcast Basic” tier went up by as much as $4 a month for some customers. The company also started charging some customers a $4-a-month “broadcast TV” fee; previously, that was only imposed on new customers. Other fees have gone up as well. For example, there’s a “sports” surcharge that now costs up to $2 more a month.

An Altice spokesperson said that the company has been investing in its network, increasing speeds, and offering a new video and entertainment experience. The sports and broadcast increases, she says, “reflect the rising cost of programming, particularly fees charged by sports and broadcast programmers, and our pricing adjustments represent just a fraction of the rising costs imposed by the programmers.”

Charter/Spectrum: Despite repeated attempts to get information about 2018 price increases, we haven't received a response from Charter. Based on other reports, it appears that Charter—which bought Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016—raised the price of many of its programming packages in January by about 6 percent to 8 percent, depending on the market and the plan. That means some subscribers are now paying an extra $5 to $10 more a month. However, the company dropped the cost of its Basic plan by about $5 a month. In addition, the company is hiking its broadcast TV fee from $7.50 to $8.85 per month. (We haven't  been able to determine whether there are any increases in regional sports fees.) The company now markets its TV service under the Spectrum brand.

Comcast: Comcast prices went up across the board in January. Most of the bundled packages have risen in price by about $5 a month, and the company’s “broadcast fee" is rising by $1, to $8 per month. Other fees are also on the rise. The charge for regional sports is going from $5 to either $6.50 or $6.75 a month, depending on the market. Missed payment fees are up $.50 to $10.

"The costs we are charged to carry popular networks continue to increase significantly, and we must pass along a portion of these higher costs to our customers," a company spokesperson said. "As a result, on average, nationally, the customer bill will increase by 2.2 percent in 2018.” He says that Comcast is making "significant investments" in its network and is offering new equipment, technologies, and services "to give customers more for their money."

Cox Communications: At Cox, price increases that kicked off in January range from $1 per month—for its more basic plan—to $5 per month for its bigger TV packages. The company's broadcast fee jumped from $4 to $7.50 a month, though, and regional sports surcharges have moved from $4.20 to $5.15 on average. Customers who are paying promotional rates will keep them until those deals are scheduled to expire.

The rising cost of programming content continues to be the main driver for video price increases, a spokesperson told us. "Also, Cox continually adds new features and functions to services, enhancing the value for customers," he says. "For example, via the new Contour video services we’ve added voice remote, better search, and TV Everywhere capabilities."

DirecTV: DirectTV, owned by AT&T, raised prices by $2 to $8 a month, depending on the plan, in January. There’s no hike, however, for its basic Family package. Regional sports fees range from no increase to $1 a month more, and the cost of the Outdoor Channel went up $1.50. Also, the company says that it will be increasing the price of next year’s NFL Sunday Ticket to $294, up from $282 this year. The NFL Sunday Ticket Max package, which also included NFL Red Zone and Fantasy Zone, is going to $396 next season, up from $378 last year, an $18 increase. AT&T also offers the DirecTV Now streaming service, essentially DirecTV without the satellite dish.

“As programming costs increase we periodically adjust pricing," an AT&T spokesperson told us. "These prices are still a great value and very competitive.”

Dish Networks: Dish Network, which also owns the Sling TV streaming service, raised rates by $2 to $5 a month in January, depending on the package. Dish says that most programming packages went up by the smaller amount. There was also a $2-a-month increase in the charge for local channels. Customers who signed up for a two- or three-year TV price guarantee, or other promotional pricing, will continue to receive the same price for their core package until the conclusion of the guarantee or promotional period.

"Dish and all other TV providers have had to accept significant price increases from programmers to carry their channels, particularly for local channels (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC), which are driving the fastest growing costs,” a spokesperson said. “Dish works hard to negotiate fair deals with programmers to keep channel costs as low as possible, and continues to invest in its service.”