DirecTV has added a surcharge to some customers for sports channels separately on several of its most popular programming packages. New DirecTV subscribers who live in areas where there are more than one regional sports net (LA has four, for example–News Corp.’s Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West and Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet and Deportes) and want those channels are being asked to pay a monthly surcharge of $3. That fee is on top of whatever portion of the costs of the channels DirecTV passes on to its customers.
DirecTV has installed the surcharge on four of its packages, including Choice and Choice Plus. The surcharge started in September. A spokesman for the company told the LA Times only about 20% of the markets around the country have more than one regional sports network — although that number is on the rise as Comcast, News Corp. and Time Warner Cable increasingly turn to sports to develop new channels.
DirecTV’s move may be met with a backlash by those companies. One executive at a sports programmer told the paper off the record this is an attempt by DirecTV to paint regional sports networks “as the bad guys.”
A DirecTV spokesman said the surcharge “only covers a small portion of the cost DirecTV is paying sports programmers to carry” the regional sports networks.
RBR-TVBR observation: The move may also mean a first step toward selling sports channels separately. Yes, sports are increasingly popular, but those that don’t give a hoot about it are getting tired of carrying the load and seeing their rates increase. As we’ve said, la carte is coming—likely in multiple package choice offerings at first, but it’s coming.