Originally published: January 26, 2013
Last updated: February 14, 2013 - 4:47pm
For a glimpse of how out of control sports bidding wars have become, look no further than your cable television bill.
Time Warner Cable subscribers in Southern California will eventually see their monthly bills increase thanks to an impending $7 billion deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, believed to be the most lucrative for any sports team in history. DirecTV, the country’s most popular satellite service, and Verizon FiOS have started adding a $2 to $3 monthly surcharge in markets like New York and Los Angeles to pay for regional sports networks. Per-subscriber fees for sports networks keep going up: ESPN, the granddaddy of them all, passed the $5-a-month mark last year. The eye-popping price tags have restarted debate about a topic near and dear to sports fans, fairness: many TV customers never watch the mightily expensive channels at all, yet almost all must pay.
There was a shudder in the industry when John Malone, the business tycoon who helped create the modern-day cable system, said in November that “runaway sports rights” costs amounted to “a high tax on a lot of households that don’t have a lot of interest in sports.” The only short-term fix, he said, was government intervention.
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