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Spectrum's Hidden 'Broadcast TV' Fee Will Increase to Almost $200 a Year

Illustration for article titled Spectrums Hidden Broadcast TV Fee Will Increase to Almost $200 a Year
Photo: AP Photo/John Raoux (AP)

Paying for cable TV already includes a bunch of annoyances, like inflexible channel packages, having to sit through commercials, and sometimes being forced to buy or rent your own cable box. But for anyone pays for cable from Spectrum, things are about to get even worse, thanks to an increase in the company’s hidden “Broadcast TV” fee.

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According to a recent report from Stop the Cap, which was later confirmed by Ars Technica, starting in August, Spectrum (which is owned by Charter Communications) will raise its Broadcast TV surcharge from $13.50 to $16.45 per month, which adds up to a total of $197.40 for an entire year of cable. At this price, Spectrum’s Broadcast TV fee is one of the highest in the industry, and higher than the $14.95 per month charged by competitors like Comcast.

Meanwhile, anyone who pays for one of Spectrum’s streaming TV packages like its TV Choice plan will also see their bill increase, though the increase isn’t quite as large: the surcharge is going from $6 to $8.95 per month.

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Cable companies justify Broadcast TV fees as the cost associated with paying for major networks like ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox to re-transmit their local cable affiliates. The big problem with these fees, however, is that these costs are then handed down to the customer, but without being included in the listed or advertised price for a company’s cable TV package. So whatever you’re paying for a cable TV or streaming TV package, Spectrum’s $16.45 Broadcast TV fee gets added on top.

Furthermore, despite many sports seasons having been delayed or suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, cable TV customers have yet to see any discounts. In a statement made to Ars Technica, Charter says the company “will pass through [to customers] any rebates we receive from the loss of live sports during COVID-19.”

Thankfully, this increase will not affect internet-only Spectrum subscribers, so if you’re trying to save a little money, one option could be to cancel your cable package and subscribe to an over-the-top streaming TV service like Hulu + Live TV or Sling TV—though probably not YouTube TV, which recently raised the price of its service from $50 to $65 a month.

While the increased costs are certainly a bummer, there are people trying to put a stop to sneaky Broadcast TV fees, as evidenced by a class-action lawsuit filed in May. The suit claims that “Charter does not fully or accurately disclose” its Broadcast TV surcharges despite advertising fixed, flat-rate packages. Unfortunately, for current Spectrum cable subscribers, any decision in that case will almost certainly come a long after those fees increase next month.

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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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DISCUSSION

hercules-rockefeller
Hercules Rockefeller

It really sucks that a lot of people live in apartments and can’t effectively use an antenna for broadcast TV, because there’s literally no reason why these channels should not be free. They are broadcast on extremely valuable spectrum that was earmarked for broadcast TV at no cost to the stations that use them, so we are collectively already paying for broadcast TV by allowing this public resource to be freely used by local TV stations.

I would highly recommend that anyone interested in using an antenna for broadcast TV should check out antenna.org, which has very useful information on how to use an antenna based on your specific address. You might be surprised how effective this old school tech is at providing crystal clear HDTV at no cost to you. I’ve been using an antenna for all my local channels for the last 8 years and it’s great.