You can add "cable TV rate increases" to the old axiom that nothing is certain except for death and taxes, as pay TV companies are again jacking up prices for programming and equipment in 2016.
It looks like the average pay TV customers will be paying $3 of $4 more each month, according to a recent report by media analysts at Evercore ISI Group. But the cable TV and satellite companies blame the higher programming costs they have to pay for the hikes.
"It’s safe to say that the rising cost of TV content is the main driver of FiOS TV price," a FiOS spokesman wrote to us in an email.
Time Warner also said that rapidly rising costs of programming— "especially local broadcast channels and cable sports networks"—are to blame, along with the company's "continued investment in the performance and reliability of our networks and equipment."
In fact, Time Warner tells us, the per-customer cost of local broadcast channels has skyrocketed 85 percent since 2013.
The analysts at Evercore seem to support the contention that rising programming costs are taking their toll. The group says that while pay TV bills will rise 3 to 4 percent on average in 2016, programming costs have climbed between 8 and 10 percent annually over the past four years.
That's probably not of too much comfort for those who find themselves digging a little bit deeper into their pockets to pay their cable TV bill. Here's a quick breakout of how much of an increase you can expect from your local provider. Just remember that how much more you'll be paying depends on what market you're in.
Price Hike Roundup
AT&T: The company, which now owns DirecTV, is implementing increases of between $2 and $4 per month for all its video packages, starting the end of this month.
Cablevision: The company, which will be merging with Altice, has said the average customer will be paying almost $3 more this year. The hikes include paying $1 more each month for set-top box rental charges and DVR fees.
Charter: We haven't seen rate increases for 2016 yet from Charter, though its possible the company is waiting for its merger with Time Warner Cable (see below) to be completed before disappointing its subscribers with hikes.
Comcast: Comcast has publicly said its rates for an average consumer will rise almost 4 percent in 2016. The company is hiking its broadcast TV fee, which covers the cost of retransmitting your local broadcast channels, from $3 to $5 per month, a pretty sizeable 66 percent jump. Most of the company's double-play packages will cost $3 to $4 more each month.
DirecTV: The nation's largest satellite service, now owned by AT&T, is bumping prices anywhere from $2 to $8 per month, with its pricier, more inclusive programming packages getting the biggest bumps. There's also a slight 50-cent bump in its "TV fee," which covers technology costs, though the fee now amounts to $6.50 each month.
Dish: Dish Network just implemented increases in the range of between $2 and $8 per month, depending on the package. Dish is lowering the cost of some of its premium packages (including HBO, now $15 instead of $19 per month), something we're seeing some cable TV companies do as well.
Time Warner Cable: Currently in the midst of a merger with Charter, TWC prices went up last week. Broadcast TV fees are rising by $1 to $3.75 per month, and there are $4 and $2 increases for its Starter TV and Standard TV packages, respectively. TWC also upped the cost of sports programming fees —by $2.25—and there are slightly higher equipment and service fees.
Verizon: We reached out to the company but it didn't have increase information to share with us. But some reports say that it looks like prices are rising about $2 per month across the various programming tiers.
The latest round of pay TV service price hikes comes as new alternatives emerge that have more of us considering cutting the cord.
“Affordability is a main driver for those without cable or satellite, as is the ability to view the content they want to watch somewhere else,” the Pew Search Center said in a survey released last month. The survey found that about 71 percent of those who have cut the cord said they ditched pay TV service in part because the cost was too high. About 64 percent said they dropped it because they can access the content they want using an over-air antenna or through a streaming service.
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