Charter: $23.75 per Subscriber for HD Carriage Is a ‘Burden’

Charter Communications is concerned about the costs of providing dual analog-digital service on its smaller cable systems, and it wants a waiver from FCC rules on carriage.

The burdensome costs: $23.75 per digital subscriber or $10.66 per basic sub, for the one-time $26,660 outlay it would need to bring five digital channels to a system of just 2,500 subscribers. Carrying three channels in both analog and digital would cost $15,996, or $14.25 per digital subscriber or $6.40 for basic viewers, Charter told the FCC in a June 12 filing.

The FCC has already exempted cable systems with less that 550 MHz capacity from the dual carriage requirement. Charter has previously asked the commission to extend the exemptions to systems with a small number of subscribers.

“The impact of those costs in systems of 2,500 subscribers is dramatic,” the company wrote. “These costs are far beyond the ‘nominal’ costs that the commission has previously equated with technical feasibility for signal carriage, and are well in excess of the cost burdens the commission found would justify EAS relief for systems with relatively few subscribers.”

Finding $26,660 for digital carriage may in fact be a burden for Charter; the company owes creditors more than $19 billion and has told the SEC it expects to continue losing money for the foreseeable future.