Cable, satellite costs to go up in new year

The new year will bring higher cable and satellite TV bills for south Louisiana consumers.

Cox, AT&T, DirecTV and Dish Network are all increasing monthly rates in January, blaming the increases on the rising fees they have to pay national cable networks and local broadcast networks in order to carry their programs.

Officials with Eatel, of Gonzales, were unavailable to comment on any potential 2014 rate hikes.

“It’s the cost of doing business, what we pay to be able to broadcast content,” said Sharon Bethea, a Cox spokeswoman.

Cox’s increases are set to take effect Jan. 14 across its south Louisiana market.

The exact amount of the increase will vary, based on the channels a customer receives or any bundling with Internet or digital phone service.

Bethea said the average increase for customers will be less than $12 per month.

“We’re sensitive about the impact our prices have on customers,” Bethea said. But programming costs are going up much higher than the national rate of inflation, she said.

One of the biggest drivers in the rising cable rates is the cost of carrying sports channels, such as ESPN, Fox Sports 1 and The SEC Network, set to launch in the summer.

Sports networks account for about one-third of cable and satellite programming costs, estimates Kannan Venkateshwar, an analyst with Barclays Equity Research. And the costs cable and satellite companies pay for sports programming are going up by about 10 percent a year, compared with 7 percent a year for other cable channels.

“There are substantial increases to carry the cost of programming, and we can only absorb so much of the additional charge,” said Sue Sperry, a local spokeswoman for AT&T. “We have to pass a little bit of that along.”

AT&T U-verse service will go up Jan. 26, with customers paying $3 a month more for all service plans (except for U-basic) and paying a $2.99 monthly broadcast TV surcharge, which offsets what local TV networks charge the company to carry their programs.

Sperry said the cost increases will cover only the cost of programming and not the capital expenditures AT&T is making to expand the footprint for U-verse service.

“Capital improvements come from a separate bucket,” she said.

The two major satellite providers also are raising rates on most customers in early 2014.

Most Dish Network subscribers will pay $5 a month more for service, effective Jan. 17.

But those who have the company’s Smart Pack plan will see a $3 monthly increase, to $33, and the cost of the bare bones Welcome and the America’s Choice 120+ plan will stay the same.

DirecTV rate increases range from $3 more monthly for its basic Entertainment plan to $5 more for its Premier package. The increases will take effect sometime in February.