My DIRECTV Bill Just Went Up $3. Thanks, Lakers

Californians with DIRECTV may as well watch the Lakers on TWC Sportsnet. You’re paying for it. According to today’s Los Angeles Times DIRECTV has instituted a $3 per month surcharge on customers with packages that includes regional sports networks. This surcharge only affects markets where there are more than one regional sports network. In Los Angeles for example FSN West and TWC Sportsnet combined provide the sports feeds, with a rumored third network forming for Dodgers baseball.

It’s not terribly surprising. These content providers ask for exorbitant fees for a single program – in TWC’s case it’s Lakers basketball – and DIRECTV has to pass that along in some way. It is more fair than making the entire country pay for Los Angelenos’ b-ball habit. The same charge will be in place in the New York City market as well as any other market with more than one RSN (regional sports network.)

Even smaller markets should watch this move carefully. It’s quite possible in the future that every sports team could have its own network and this charge could double or triple. If a market like Los Angeles with 6 major sports franchises just in the city (count San Diego and you’re up to 8) charges a surcharge for each one, imagine paying $18 a month extra just for sports that you may not be interested in. Of course DIRECTV is sensitive to the fact that when people’s bills go over $100 they tend to leave the service, so that won’t happen. What is more likely to happen is more blackouts, more channel disputes, and shrewder bargaining.

Let’s be honest here. The move to individual sports networks, especially ones carried only on cable and satellite, is a money grab pure and simple. Nothing wrong with capitalism, but when it gets to the point that honest fans can’t afford to watch their favorite teams, the system will break down. Ask yourself… who’s watching NHL games right now? No one. Why? They can’t agree on money. Sooner or later if the greed continues every sport could end up like that.