"We'll charge people more because they won't have to listen to you, Wheels."

“We’ll charge people more because they won’t have to listen to you, Wheels.”

Sometimes I just want to pat myself on the back. Pat it real hard.

I’ve been harping on this for about six months. In January, fashion editor Dan and I had Dave Warner of WhatUPay4Sports.com on our podcast to discuss this very issue. With rising TV rights deals – like the Phillies’ new 25-year, $2.5 billion deal with Comcast – comes rising cable costs. As more money is doled out to teams while, simultaneously, more people cut the cord from their traditional cable packages, regional sports networks will be forced to raise their per-subscriber surcharges. Cable providers, should they choose to keep the networks in their lineups, will then pass those fees on to subscribers. Which is exactly what is about to happen to you.

Bob Fernandez of the Inquirer reports:

Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia is asking pay-TV operators, including Comcast itself, to pay for those additional games on cable, according to multiple pay-TV operators who declined to be identified.

The sports network has warned that it would black out 33 Phillies games on the TV systems that decline to pay.

Comcast Cable has agreed to the extra charges. Pay-TV operators will either pass the surcharge along to customers with cable-TV rate hikes, or absorb the new costs. Comcast said it has no changes to announce to its cable rates.

Verizon Communications Inc.’s FiOS TV service “has not yet reached an agreement regarding the surcharge,” company spokesman Lee Giercynski said Tuesday.

Comcast Sports Philadelphia, now part of Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, confirmed the surcharge but declined to specify the amount. Pay-TV operators also declined to specify the amount, citing confidential negotiations.

Yes, you read that right. As of right now, 33 Phillies games would be blacked on FIOS.

That number isn’t a mythical Cliff Lee reference– it’s the number of games that will move from over-the-air My PHL 17 to CSN. So CSN is raising its fees ostensibly because they will carry 33 additional Phillies games. But the real reason is the $2.5 billion deal. This same thing is happening all over the country. It’s happening in LA, where many folks may be without Dodgers games thanks to the highest proposed RSN carriage fee in the country. In Houston last year, only about 40% of the market was able to watch Astros games for this very reason. The problem won’t be that extreme in Philly, where Comcast dominates the market and won’t refuse to essentially pay itself. And this isn’t an issue of FIOS not carrying CSN… it’s an issue of not wanting to pay the rate increase.

A deal will most likely be struck, however. The Phillies probably won’t be very good, but it would be bad business for FIOS to have 33 Phillies games blacked out. Plus, FIOS is most likely taking a negotiating stance so they don’t set a precedent that they’ll pay whatever CSN wants every year.

Warner wrote about this very issue back in January. He predicted 4% yearly carriage fee increases beginning in 2016, when the Phillies’ new deal with Comcast officially kicks in. But… they’re starting earlier. Why hold out when they can screw you now?