Correction — Due to a reporter's error, a previous version of this article incorrectly described a rate increase being requested by Viacom during negotiations with cable providers. Kyle Jones, telecom manager for South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative, said he does not know the percentage increase Viacom has requested, because the contract is under negotiation through a cooperative that works on behalf of cable providers, including SCRTC. The Daily Times strives to report the news accurately. To report an error, call the newsroom at 678-5171.
Local cable television subscribers should expect larger-than-usual increases on their bills this year as the first of several contract negotiations for 2014 has begun.
Both of Barren County’s cable providers – Glasgow Electric Plant Board and South Central Rural Telephone Cooperative – receive most of their content through a larger cooperative that negotiates deals for blocks of channels. Several contracts that cover most of the local channel offerings are expiring this year, which compounds the effect on customers, according to officials at EPB and SCRTC.
“It’s a foregone conclusion that they’ll be raising their rates,” said Billy Ray, superintendent of EPB.
Negotiations are under way now with Viacom, which owns eight of the networks in EPB’s basic cable tier and several others in higher tiers. As 2014 progresses, contracts with Disney, Discovery, Scripps and others will also be on the table.
“These are big companies. These are not just one-channel or two-channel deals,” said SCRTC telecom manager Kyle Jones said. “It’ll be a big year.”
Ray is particularly concerned because, so far, the prices being sought by content providers are rising “exponentially,” he said. SCRTC General Manager David Davis said the member-owned utility also expects prices will rise for consumers, “most likely significantly.”
Both Ray and Davis said they expect the increases to be more than their respective companies can absorb, so they will be passed along to customers.
“We hate that,” Davis said. “You’ve either got to do an increase or you’ve got to drop channels, one of the two.”
None of the local officials could cite dollar figures, because their contracts with the National Cable Television Cooperative, the negotiating entity, forbid them from doing so.
While the typical SCRTC cable bill increase has been 5 percent to 8 percent annually, based on all the contract changes for a given year, “this year will be a pretty substantial increase,” Jones said.