As if inflation and higher utility bills weren't enough, Comcast is raising TV and internet prices later this month.
Tens of millions of Xfinity cable customers will see their bills rise 3% nationwide, on average, according to Comcast. The Comcast price hikes will become effective for Chattanooga-area customers on Dec. 18, according to company spokeswoman Sara Jo Walker.
The increases don't affect promotional prices, which are locked in during the promotional period. But even if your promotion hasn't expired, you'll likely still pay more for TV service next month. That's because Comcast is again hiking fees for broadcast television, local sports, cable boxes and remotes — charges that are often just a few bucks more but together drive up the overall bill.
Two fees, in particular, have skyrocketed in recent years. The broadcast TV fee — a monthly charge for NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox — and a regional sports fee — the monthly charge for sports networks such as the SEC sports channel.
Programming costs increased 7.6% during the last quarter, the company reported in October, and have more than doubled since 2006, from $5.5 billion to $13.5 billion in 2020.
The company says that it absorbs some of those costs but that the rest are passed on to consumers. In the most recent quarter, Comcast's cable division — which includes TV, internet and phone services — reported an adjusted operating profit margin of nearly 44% before nonoperational costs such as taxes and interest expenses. That doesn't include capital expenditures either.
"Content providers continue to increase the costs they charge us to carry their content, with broadcast TV and sports being the biggest drivers of price increases," Walker said. "We're continuing to work hard to manage these costs for our customers while investing in our network to provide the best, most reliable broadband service in the country."
Walker said the 3% average increase in Comcast rates is lower than the increases some streaming video services are planning for next year.
EPB, which is the biggest internet and video provider in Chattanooga, did not increase its video rates last month as it has done in previous years in November. But EPB President David Wade, who said he didn't want to boost charges during the pandemic, said an increase in EPB video rates may be needed by next spring.
EPB provides high-speed internet service to about 120,000 of its 175,000 electric customers in and around Chattanooga. Since EPB launched its fiber-optic network in 2009, the city-owned utility has displaced Comcast as the biggest internet service provider in the market. But among its roughly 120,000 EPB fiber optic customers, only 44,000 — or less than 37% of all EPB Fiber Optic customers — subscribe to one of EPB's video plans.
Last year, EPB began helping its fiber-optic customers "cut the cord" and drop their video plans in favor of streaming video channels delivered over the internet. EPB has even set up a website for the so-called cord cutters, epb.com/campaigns/cord-cutter-jg, to allow EPB customers to designate the channels and TV shows they most want to watch. Based upon each customer's preferences, a customized video service is made available to each household.
For its part to keep cord-cutters as internet customers, Comcast is touting its video platform X1 or streaming product Flex, which is included with Comcast's broadband service.
— Compiled by Dave Flessner based upon reports from the Philadelphia Inquirer and other services.