Many Comcast cable TV and Internet customers can expect increases on their bills starting in December as the company makes price changes it says are necessary to cover rising broadcast TV and regional sports fees.
The TV broadcast fee is a monthly charge for ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. The regional sports fee covers networks like NBC Sports Philadelphia, which gives Philadelphia subscribers access to 76ers, Flyers and Phillies games not on national broadcasts.
In the Philadelphia market, the broadcast TV fee will increase by 11.2% from $19.15 to $21.30 per month. Last year it increased by 17.5%, from $16.30. The local sports network fee in Philadelphia will rise 65 cents from $12.70 to $13.35, an increase of more than 5%. Last year, that fee rose 21% from $10.50 to $12.70.
The monthly cost to rent a modem will increase by $1, from $14 to $15. Most of Comcast’s Internet packages will also increase in price by an average of $3.05 per month, with the exception of customers who have promotional packages and those enrolled in Comcast’s Internet Essentials program. The low-income Internet service has held steady at $9.95 a month since it launched more than a decade ago.
The increases will appear in the billing cycle that begins in the second half of December, which is when Comcast typically raises its rates each year.
Some parts of the country served by Comcast will see much higher increases in cable TV fees.
Officials in Taunton, Mass., have been notified that the broadcast TV fee there will increase by $7.35 a month to $26. And in Sandown, New Hampshire, a letter sent by Comcast showed an increase in the broadcast TV fee from $24.95 a month to $27.25 a month starting Dec. 20.
On average, nationally, Comcast customers will see their combined cable and Internet bills rise at a rate of 3.8%. This is higher than the average increase of 3% heading to 2022.
“Our national average increase of 3.8% is about half the most recent inflation rate,” Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Bilotta said Friday.
The fees Comcast charges stations to be included in its cable systems has nearly tripled since 2006, the company said.
“TV networks and other video programmers continue to raise their prices, with broadcast television and sports the biggest drivers of increases in customer bills,” Bilotta said. “We continue 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.”
Access to NBC Sports Philadelphia has long been a selling point for Comcast, and to get it, customers must subscribe to one of the company’s top-tier packages. Bloomberg reported Thursday that Comcast is negotiating streaming rights deals with teams and leagues to make regional sports networks available to subscribers of Peacock, the streaming service of Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.
A spokesperson for NBCUniversal confirmed on Friday that discussions with partners and rights holders are underway to bring NBC Regional Sports Networks to Peacock in 2023. Information about specific markets, ports, prices and tiers is not yet available.
Comcast has struggled with cord-cutters in the past few years and reported a loss of 561,000 video customers in its Q3 earnings report in October, with a net loss of 1.6 million video customers during the nine months ended Sept. 30.
In Comcast’s second-quarter earnings report this year, the Philadelphia-based company also noted that it failed to gain any residential broadband Internet customers for the first time ever. Comcast is the largest Internet provider in the United States, with about 29.8 million residential Internet customers and 2.3 million broadband business customers. In its third quarter earnings report, Comcast reported a gain of 14,000 broadband customers.
Customers’ rising Comcast bills also reflect the steady trend of losing video customers.
On the earnings call in late October, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and President and CFO Michael Cavanaugh both said the company was focused on growing revenue per user, through a combination of rate increases and the way the company’s tiered packages for broadband customers are structured.
Comcast noted that “no one is immune” to increases in television program costs, which are passed on to consumers. The company said Hulu+ LiveTV and DirecTV Stream have each increased in price by about 75% since 2019, while direct-to-consumer streaming services have increased by an average of 28%.
Comcast has also invested nearly $20 billion over the past five years to improve its network with faster Internet speeds, Wi-Fi and new technology in homes.
Last December, Comcast dropped a plan that would have added a monthly data limit of 1.2 terabytes for home Internet users in 14 states in the Northeast and Washington, DC. The change would have charged an additional $10 for every 50 gigabytes above that threshold, up to $100 a month. Data thresholds like this are already in effect in 27 states in Comcast’s central and western divisions. The caps were originally set at 1 terabyte, but were paused during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic before rising to 1.2 terabytes.
Household internet use has risen sharply in the past decade, driven by subscription video services, such as Netflix, and the bandwidth demands of online gaming. Average monthly usage in the US has risen from about 9 gigabytes in 2010 to an estimated 344 gigabytes in 2020 and continues to rise.
Before pulling the plan in the Northeast, Comcast said 1.2 terabytes would be enough for 21,600 hours of uninterrupted music, 500 hours of streaming HD TV, 34,000 hours of online gaming and 3,500 hours of video chat. The company dropped the plan amid backlash from local governments, including a call for a price-fixing investigation by the Baltimore City Council. Lawmakers in Massachusetts have also explored legislation that would ban usage-based billing during public health emergencies.
Roberts noted in October that monthly Internet usage is rising, even among Comcast broadband customers who don’t subscribe to cable TV packages.
“Our broadband customers who don’t subscribe to traditional video from us already use an average of almost 650 gigabytes of data per month, and that’s just today,” said Roberts.