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Half of your cable bill is because of the cost of sports programming

Dec 3, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

old TV

Do you hate how high your cable bill is? Blame sports. From Joe Flint and Meg James of the L.A. Times:

The average household already spends about $90 a month for cable or satellite TV, and nearly half of that amount pays for the sports channels packaged into most services … Over the next three years, monthly cable and satellite bills are expected to rise an average of nearly 40%, to $125, according to the market research company NPD Group.

In other news, be sure to watch NBC SportsTalk on the NBC Sports Network this week at 6PM Eastern, where I’ll be reporting live from the Winter Meetings!

Sorry everyone.


  1. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    This is a solid endorsement for pirated streaming feeds available online.

  2. kkolchak - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    “Over the next three years, monthly cable and satellite bills are expected to rise an average of nearly 40%, to $125…”

    At some point this is going to become unsustainable as lower income households become unable to pay. Cable/Satellite TV is going to become the next big bubble to burst like the housing market.

    • Cris E - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      We opted out at my house. $1000 buys a lot of beer and wings for the games I *need* to see.

      • historiophiliac - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        Ditto. No cable here. You can buy the games on instead. Bonus: no Buck & McCarver. (And, I get to see my Tigers too then.)

      • pinkfloydprism - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:06 PM

        Same here… we have a digital antenna, netflix and I buy the MLB package online (cheaper) and watch it on my PS3 with their app… full screen and awesome!

    • rmcd13 - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:49 PM

      MLB Radio is super cheap, no blackouts, and I can listen to every single game around the country. No cable bill for me.

    • 78mu - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:04 PM

      When ESPN first went after NFL games, they knew they could just pass the cost onto the cable providers who would then pass the cost onto subscribers. And as fees rose, they continued to pass on the costs.

      The big question is what increase will be the one that bursts the bubble? Will the next round of NFL fees be too much for people to swallow. What about the new contracts for teams like the Angels? Americans love to watch their sports on tv but then I remember people saying you could never lose money buying a house.

    • ezthinking - Dec 3, 2012 at 3:12 PM

      The other half goes toward Real Housewives, Survivor and Dancing with the Stars. At least sports shows you real life.

      • davidpom50 - Dec 3, 2012 at 5:18 PM

        Actually, a big part of the reason for the growth of reality TV is how cheap it is to produce. “You mean we don’t have to pay for writers or actors? Our biggest expense is a big ass house for everyone to live in? DONE!”

  3. Ben - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    There’s a reason an entire younger generation doesn’t have cable. There’s a lot of things I could do with a thousand bucks a year other than watch TV (sans the 65 or whatever for Netflix).

  4. kpow55 - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    So if i live in area like Phoenix with no professional teams in any arena, can I opt out?

    Or if this is really true and i’m forced to pay anyhow maybe I can opt into a real market of my choice.

    • vallewho - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:43 AM


  5. hansob - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    So what happens when non-sports loving subscribers in, say, Los Angeles have had enough and start leaving the system in droves? Do the Dodgers still get their $250M a year? Does Fox go bankrupt because they signed these 20 year deals?

    • kkolchak - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      “Does Fox go bankrupt because they signed these 20 year deals?”

      Bingo–of course the taxpayers will probably then be forced to bail them out because they provide such a “vital public service.”

      • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:09 PM

        FOX doesn’t provide a damn thing.

  6. nolanwiffle - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    …..and the other half is (seemingly) to pay for shows involving pretentious “Housewives”.

  7. El Bravo - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Fuk cable n satellite. I’ve been without for over three years. If I NEED to see a game there’s ways to stream online. Otherwise, most big games are free over the airwaves, as they should be.

    This explains why they can give the MLB teams so much money in TV deals though, huh?

  8. Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    The first version of the title for this post was: “Half of your cable bill is to keep Craig Calcaterra making appearances on NBCSports”

    • 78mu - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

      Quality costs money. Without those big fees we’d end up with people like Kruk analyzing baseball games.

      Oh, wait!

      • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:10 PM

        Explain the existence of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

      • Cris E - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:13 PM

        Free TV = no revenues = Buck and McCarver

        They are a case FOR paying more.

      • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:18 PM

        So they got rid of Joe Morgan when they needed to raise prices? NOW I get it…

    • natstowngreg - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      Hmmm, if that’s the case, I need to rethink my cable service.

      • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:20 PM

        Not to mention the sheer expense for makeup for his dome…

      • natstowngreg - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:25 PM

        True. Probably adds $5 a month to my bill just for that.

  9. chill1184 - Dec 3, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    Not surprising, Sports among other things are reasons why some people even have cable/satellite/fiber optic at all.

    • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:06 PM

      Hey!!! Toddlers and Tiaras and Honey BooBoo have fans, too!!!!! God only knows why, but they do.

      • chill1184 - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:08 PM

        I don’t watch much TV but it seems that in recent years, reality television has become “Easy Mode” for television executives and producers.

  10. sparty0n - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    This just doesnt make any sense to me. First, how can ppl keep paying for cable? I dumped it a long time ago.

    Second, when are the leagues going to realize THEY DONT NEED THE CABLE COMPANIES ANYMORE? SEC, BIGTEN, BIG12, NFL, NBA etc… could all go to a monthly subscriber based broadcast over the internet and cut out the cable company “middle-man”.

    • cardsfanindelaware - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:39 PM

      Where do you think the cable comes from?? Why it comes from the cable company, satellite company and fiber-optic companies.

      For example, if you have Comcast and you have their Triple Play package and want to dump the tv and phone feeds cuz you can get them online, what happens to the internet portion of that bill??

      It goes waaaaaay up. They will still get paid.

      Satellite and fiber-optic have their hands in this just as much as “cable”.

    • hansob - Dec 3, 2012 at 1:29 PM

      They ABSOLUTELY need the cable companies. And not just for the infrastructure. They need someone to bundle their product in with other channels so that they can get non-sports fans’ money, too.

      B10 Network is in 40M homes right now because of the 150 channel packages. Even at $1 a month (and I’ve seen higher numbers), they would be getting close to $500M a year. Now try to get anything close to that with a la carte subscriptions. No way 20M people would pay $25 a year for it. No way 10M would pay $50 a year for it. There’s no formula that gets them to $500M a year.

      • sparty0n - Dec 3, 2012 at 7:57 PM


        You are correct. After seeing the the numbers, I conceed, you are correct. However, at some point the bubble has to burst. It’s just getting too expensive.

  11. Jeremy Fox - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Wait, isn’t this like the claim that ticket prices are rising because player salaries are rising? Prices for anything are ultimately set by supply and demand for it, not by the costs of producing or providing it, right?

    • Ben - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:19 PM

      Supply and demand have nothing to do with cable. Because it’s an all or nothing bundled service, you have no choice but to subsidize sports programming, even if all you want is AMC. If a la carte pricing were an option in the American TV market you could talk meaningfully about supply and demand, but we can’t. You also wouldn’t see these insane TV deals if ala carte pricing were an option, because consumers could choose the three or thirty channels they wanted.

      • Jeremy Fox - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:24 PM

        Well, except that, as other commenters have noted, maybe you stop paying for cable entirely and get your entertainment some other way, whether that’s pirated online feeds or Netflix or whatever. Demand for cable may be fairly price-insensitive (I have no idea, really), but that doesn’t mean that supply and demand is just irrelevant or that prices can be raised forever with no effect on demand.

      • Ben - Dec 3, 2012 at 12:46 PM

        Well that appears to be the plan–raise prices forever, because the cost of sports programming is nested in with the stuff people may actually want, which makes it somewhat inelastic, but mostly because consumers don’t have a choice.

  12. sportsdrenched - Dec 3, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    I will say the number of people I know that drop cable/sat and go with al-a-cart streaming options seems to be growing. Not sure if published industry numbers reflect that. But if I’m a cable/sat company I start finding a way to reach these people cause I know people 20 years younger than me aren’t going to pay for it when they move out of their parents house.

  13. nightman13 - Dec 3, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    When i read things like this, it makes me hate professional sports (I am counting college sports in there too since there are a ton of people making a ton of money off of those.) They gouge us for tickets, gouge us for merchandise, gouge us for parking, gouge us for PSLs, make us pay for their stadiums and then they drive up our television costs. All so a few dozen rich b-stard owners and bowl committees can make a ton of money that they don’t need.

    • gibbyfan - Dec 3, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      And dont forget to include players salary in that mix as well………..Your being gouged supports that too. I for one am surprised at the numbers Craig has come up with. If accurate, and given the straglehold the cable companies have, it woul dbe an outrage, especially for non sports fans.

  14. juanhughjazz - Dec 3, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    that’s disappointing considering I watch 1 sports channel(FSD for hockey). I like baseball on the radio, and Lions football I can get on the antenna. I have to figure out how to watch AMC online.

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