In regards to your monthly cable bill, you can count on one thing: It goes up fast and consistently. So fast in fact, that a recent FCC report has found that cable television costs experienced four times the rate of the national inflation during the study period of 1995-2013.
“Basic cable service prices increased by 6.5 percent [to $22.63] for the 12 months ending January 1, 2013. Expanded basic cable prices increased by 5.1 percent [to $64.41] for those 12 months, and at a compound average annual rate of 6.1 percent over the 18-year period from 1995-2013,”
So what’s the cause? Sports programming is typically the single largest culprit, with ESPN leading the pack at almost 10% of the average bill. Most of the cable providers now offer discounted packages that leave out sports for about $10 less per month, but these packages are often crippled by missing major channels that non-sports people typically enjoy–like Comedy Central or SyRy.
Comcast has claimed that their bid for Time Warner will make prices more stable for consumers. For some reason, any provider that appeals to the FCC in a market and is found to control 30% or less of the total households (subscribers or not), is exempt from price regulation, sometimes requiring action by the city government to stop uncontrolled price hikes.
In areas where there is competition, typically providers simply lay on more channels no one wants as a differentiator, as a typical household only watches 10% of the channels they receive and only on a semi-regular basis.
Something tells me that this report will fall on stone deaf ears for the most part. While it appears that true à la carte cable is out of the question, maybe we’ve been going about this the wrong way. What if instead of choosing the channels you want, you chose what you don’t want? That strategy could probably knock $10-15 off the average bill, while still maintaining the bundles that many channels depend on for their continued survival. We’ll see if this report has any effect on future FCC action or the Comcast/TWC merger, but I’m not holding my breath.