fuboTV’s regional sports network (RSN) fee isn’t new but it will feel new to many subscribers considering they have recently seen the price of their live TV package jump, significantly.
To be clear, the idea of an RSN fee is certainly the right way to go as live sports is an important part of the live TV experience. As proved in the past, the only alternative to paying more for local channels and RSNs seems to be losing them. A situation which doesn’t benefit the subscriber, services like fuboTV, or the channel owners.
However, rolling out an RSN fee in the way that fuboTV has is only going to alienate subscribers who either don’t want to or can’t pay the additional fee.
For reference, fuboTV isn’t the only service to make a change like this. Starting from next week, many Sling TV subscribers will be facing a new local channel fee. Basically, anyone who lives in an area where Sling TV offers ABC will have to automatically pay an additional $5 per month.
fuboTV’s RSN fee works in exactly the same way, the only difference being that it is far more expensive.
Whil fuboTV has charged this RSN fee for some time now, it recently added Bally Sports RSNs to its lineup, and in doing so, opened up many more subscribers to being charged. In addition to being more widely applied, the fee itself also increased in price, and increases again in areas with access to multiple regional sports networks.
Put simply, the RSN fee could increase the cost of any of fuboTV’s plans by as much as $14 per month. Those signing up to fuboTV won’t even know they are expected to pay the additional free until after they have picked a base package and are deep in the process of checking out and starting the free trial.
Again, there is nothing wrong with charging extra for RSNs. In reality, more live TV services should start considering charging their subscribers for RSNs as this will help to ensure they are available. However, that doesn’t mean that all subscribers shouldn’t automatically be charged an extra monthly fee for local channels and RSNs.
The right way to implement such a charge would be via an add-on. All of the main live TV services, including fuboTV, already offer add-ons so also offering a dedicated Local & RSN add-on wouldn’t be that dramatic or require much work to implement.
This would help to ensure that those who want greater access to local news, weather, and sports can opt to pay more for the additional channels, just like those who are willing to pay for premium networks like HBO Max and Showtime, or additional sports through the Sports Plus add-on.
At the same time, an RSN add-on would also help to make sure that those that don’t want to or can’t pay an additional fee won’t have to.
In reality, this is also probably exactly what fuboTV would like to do as well. Sling too, with its ABC charge. After all, and while it is these companies that are charging subscribers the extra fee, it most likely isn’t their decision. Instead, it is most likely part of the carriage agreement.
Channel owners tend to want live TV providers to agree to various additional terms to carry their most popular channels (products). For some, that could mean bundling less popular channels with more popular ones. In other instances it may mean charging all subscribers even if they don’t want to pay extra for the channel(s). Of course, they can only charge those who will actually get the channels to begin with, which is pretty much how fuboTV’s RSN fee now works.
Regardless of whether it is ultimately the decision of fuboTV or Bally Sports, the way the current RSN fee is set up feels wrong. Consumers clearly won’t know they are expected to pay the fee when shopping for packages, and even those that are aware, they probably won’t know exactly how much they’ll be expected to pay on top of the base package until they start checking out.
For existing subscribers, and without any RSN-free alternative available, they will be forced to revaluate whether fuboTV is the right live TV service for them. After all, some of them will now be paying up to $14 more per month for channels they didn’t ask for or want.
Again, an RSN fee is the right way to go, in principle. It is just this half-hidden and everyone must pay implementation is the wrong way to go about it.