Return to articles

An Inside Look at Broadcast TV Fees

When it comes to your cable package, knowing when and when not to bundle services can help to save some serious money down the road on the services that matter to you. Whether you’re bundling TV with Internet and phone or some combination of the three, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. SmartMove is here to help you find special offers while also navigating the best way to approach bundling the services you use most.

What Are Broadcast TV Fees? An Inside Look

When you look at your monthly cable TV bill, you may notice something called “broadcast TV fees.” While some cable companies are known for hidden fees, there’s a true purpose behind a broadcast TV fee.

But what are they, and why do you have to pay them? Below, we’ll explain the ins and outs of broadcast TV programming costs, including what those fees are and why you have to pay them.

Why Are Broadcast TV Fees Charged?

TV providers like Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, and Optimum typically include broadcast TV fees in your monthly bills. These charges represent the fees that TV companies have to pay local broadcast stations so they are included in your channel lineup. These local stations (i.e., ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX) provide everything from news to sports to entertainment.

However, these stations aren’t necessarily free. In order to carry this content, your cable or satellite company has to pay retransmission fees to the stations. These fees are then passed on to you, the subscriber, in the form of a broadcast TV fee.

Broadcast Fees and Cable Providers: The Connection

The relationship between your cable provider and local broadcast stations is in a constant state of flux. The retransmission fees, which underpin broadcast TV fees, have grown tremendously in recent years.

In many cases, these stations argue that the fees help them cover the rising costs of producing local content. On the other hand, cable companies believe that these fees are exorbitant, which often leads to price hikes for customers. For the most part, this ongoing battle has a major influence on the broadcast TV fees you see on your monthly bill.

The Average Costs of Broadcast TV Fees

Broadcast TV fees can vary widely between providers and locations. Here's a chart for a quick look at the average monthly costs across some of the most popular cable operators in the U.S.:

Provider Average Broadcast TV Fee


Average Broadcast TV Fee

Comcast Xfinity

Up to $26.58/mo.


Up to $21.00/mo.


Up to $22.00/mo.



Important Note: These are average estimates. Depending on your specific location and the local channels available, your actual broadcast TV fee could be higher or lower.

Factors Influencing the Variability of Fees

You may be wondering why broadcast TV fees are so inconsistent. Here are a few key factors influencing pricing:

  • Market size: Cable and satellite providers in larger, more competitive metropolitan areas may face higher retransmission costs than those in smaller markets.

  • Channel lineup: The specific local channels your provider offers can heavily influence the fees on your bill.

  • Negotiations: Each cable and satellite company independently negotiates its retransmission agreements with the local broadcast stations. These behind-the-scenes deals can cause wildly different fee structures for each provider.

Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Broadcast TV Fees

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plays a major role in regulating many aspects of broadcast TV. However, it doesn’t directly set the limits for the broadcast TV fees your provider passes on to you.

In recent years, there have been calls for increased FCC oversight of retransmission fees. That’s because many consumer groups argue that the current regulations don't go far enough to protect the average household from these high costs.

Occasionally, disagreements between local stations and cable companies result in blackouts. This is where the local station's signal is 100% removed from the provider's lineup during negotiations. Such outages highlight the power struggle between programmers and providers. Unfortunately, these disputes usually leave you, the consumer, feeling frustrated and unable to access your favorite local channels.

Broadcast TV Fees vs. Cable Subscription Fees

Not sure where your broadcast TV surcharge fees end and your overall cable subscription fees begin? Here's the difference between the two:

  • Subscription Fees: This is the core price for your cable or satellite TV package. For the most part, it covers access to a bundle of channels, including sports, entertainment, news, and more.

  • Broadcast TV Fees: If you look closely at your bill, you’ll see that this is a separate line item, which is there specifically for your broadcast TV stations.

You can think of your cable/satellite subscription fees as the initial fee to enter an amusement park, while the broadcast TV fee is more like an additional fee for a specific attraction within the park.

How to Manage Broadcast TV Fees

It may seem like there is no way to avoid those pesky broadcast TV fees. However, there are a few ways to potentially reduce their impact on your monthly bill. Here’s how:

  • Negotiate with Your Provider: Contact your TV provider and ask them about specific promotions or discounts that could reduce your overall bill.

  • Explore Antenna Options: An over-the-air antenna can provide you with free access to local channels like ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX.

  • Check for Bundles: Some providers offer cable and Internet bundles that can significantly reduce your overall bill. However, be sure to check if the bundle truly saves you money before switching, as the advertised price may not include all fees and surcharges.

Find an Affordable TV Provider Near You

Finding a TV provider that meets your needs and budget can be tricky, especially with the complexities of broadcast TV fees and other hidden costs. Fortunately, SmartMove can help.

Enter your address below to find the best cable TV service providers available in your area today!

Get Connected

Enter the address where you'd like your Internet service.

Find My Provider
Or give us a call:  1.877.298.8998

Ready To Get Connected

Enter your address to get started