DirecTV has started charging new customers $3 more per month if they want a package that includes multiple regional sports networks. It's the latest attempt by a TV operator to pin the cause of rising TV bills on content companies.
The charge went into effect nationally with little fanfare in September, a couple months before DirecTV agreed to pay more for new sports channels provided by competitor Time Warner Cable Inc. that have exclusive coverage of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Time Warner Cable had asked nearly $4 per month per subscriber for the channels.
DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said the surcharge is "a way of recovering some, but not all of the costs of sports in certain markets."
Many of the nation's largest cities have multiple sports networks, including New York and Los Angeles. DirecTV says the affected markets represent about 20 percent of the country's 210 designated market areas.
The extra $3 fee is tacked on for all new customers who want channel packages above the lowest tier. The lowest tier without regional sports networks starts at $30 a month.
The next step up is called "choice" and starts at a promotional price of $35 a month, not including the extra fee. The "choice" level has about 10 more channels such as the Cooking Channel and IFC along with regional sports networks, which offer coverage of local sports teams.
The move is similar to a decision by Charter Communications Inc. in late 2010 to break out how much each customer pays each month for the cost of retransmitting local broadcast TV signals, which had previously been given to the cable TV operator for free.
DirecTV fought with Time Warner Cable over the cost of its new Lakers channels, holding out on carrying them until two weeks after the regular NBA season had started.