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What Is a Broadcast TV Fee?

TV providers charge a broadcast TV fee for access to your local broadcast affiliates. Read on to learn how much they cost, how you can avoid them, and why they’re b.s.

According to TV providers, a broadcast TV fee, or broadcast surcharge, is what you pay for access to your local broadcast affiliates like ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. We know what you’re thinkin’: Isn’t that why I pay for my TV plan every month? Well, you’d think so.

In this article, we’ll explain broadcast TV fees and tell you about providers that don’t charge these fees, like DIRECTV, Verizon Fios, and live TV streaming services.

Why am I charged a broadcast TV fee?

Cable TV providers claim that local broadcast TV stations charge exorbitant fees for the providers to air, or rebroadcast, programming from those stations. In turn, the TV providers say that they pass at least a portion of this cost on to the consumer. But really, broadcast TV fees are exactly what you suspect: TV providers squeezing more money from you.

How much are broadcast TV fees?

Broadcast TV fees vary depending on the provider, the region, and the local channels available in that region. In the comparison table below, you’ll see that, among top TV providers, broadcast TV surcharges range from $12.00–$20.46 per month.

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ProviderBroadcast TV feeIncreases monthly payment byDetails
Cox$16.00/mo.12%–32%View plan
Cheapest broadcast TV fees
DISH
$12.00/mo.*13%–18%View plan
No broadcast TV fees
DIRECTV
N/AN/AView plan
Optimum$20.46/mo.16%–27%View plan
RCNUp to $18.78/mo.†16%–23%View plan
Spectrum$16.45/mo.17%–37%View plan
Suddenlink$15.00/mo.12%–26%View plan
No broadcast TV fees
Verizon Fios
N/AN/AView plan
XfinityUp to $14.75/mo.†16%–25%View plan

Data as of post date. Offers and availability may vary with location and are subject to change.
* DISH calls it a local channels fee.
† Depends on package and/or region.

DIRECTV and Verizon Fios are the only TV providers that don’t charge a broadcast TV fee. DISH charges a “local channels” fee, but it’s the same thing.

When we say that TV providers pass a portion of what they pay local broadcasters, it’s because that’s the official word—from the providers. Since the fees are b.s., the “portion” thing is also dubious. Otherwise, we think there would be more uniformity in how much you end up paying.

To give you an idea how much extra profit TV providers make from these fees, we’ve included a column in the table above that shows you how much each provider’s fee increases your monthly payment.

There’s not much you can do about broadcast TV fees—or is there? We have some suggestions in an upcoming section.

TV providers’ other hidden fees

Broadcast TV surcharges aren’t the only fees that TV providers try not to advertise. Some providers charge early termination fees, reconnection fees, regional sports network fees, late fees, returned check fees, declined card fees—you get the point.

Forewarned is forearmed, so we’ve compiled these handy guides about other sneaky fees to help you in your quest for TV service.

Is the broadcast TV fee monthly?

Yes, broadcast TV fees are charged each month.

Still shopping around for a TV provider? To see which cable and satellite TV companies are in your area (and compare their broadcast TV fees), enter your zip code below.

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How do I get rid of broadcast TV fees?

There are only two ways to get rid of broadcast TV fees and other questionable fees from TV providers:

  • Cancel your TV service: Poof—no more fees. But also no more TV service.
  • Try an over-the-air (OTA) TV antenna: For a one-time payment starting at $30, OTA antennas pick up all of your local stations plus their subchannels. (But do the local broadcast TV stations charge fees to antenna manufacturers? Of course not.)
  • Switch to streaming TV: Streaming TV services have no broadcast (or other garbage) fees, and you’ll still have TV service.

Hate cable TV fees? Try live TV streaming services instead.

Live TV streaming services are the simplified alternative to traditional cable and satellite TV providers. With streaming, you have no odd fees, no contracts, no bloated channel lineups, no installation appointments, no rented equipment, no frustrating customer service reps—uh, why do people still want traditional TV, again?

To learn more, see our guide to the Best Live TV Streaming Services.

Final take

Broadcast TV fees are bad news, but the only way to escape them is to change TV providers or cut the cord and enter the stream. We’d suggest writing to your congressman, too, but politicians and corporate greed go together like TVs and remotes.

Methodology

Our TV experts research cable and satellite TV providers all day, every day so we can help you make informed buying decisions—and understand things like TV providers’ strange fees. For more information on our process, see our “How We Rank” page.