Why you may pay more for BET, MTV and Nickelodeon pay-TV channels

Those who want their MTV — and some other channels such as BET, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, for that matter — may have to pay more for it.

The nation’s second-largest TV-and-Internet provider Charter Communications has moved those channels, all owned by Viacom, to its most expensive Gold tier, usually priced at $105 for standalone pay TV or for $75 for a bundle including TV, Internet and phone of about $135.

Charter has rolled out its Charter Spectrum service to all of the markets acquired in its $79 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Viacom channels were moved to the higher-priced tier to keep its entry-level package lower, in part due to stem cord-cutting defections.

As a result, new Charter Spectrum customers — and, for instance, Time Warner Cable customers who have special deals that may be expiring — may need to pay more than they used to if they want to watch or continue watching other Viacom channels including VH1 and Spike.

People who want to cut the cord and still get many of these channels, have to shop carefully. MTV and other Viacom channels are not carried on YouTube TV and Hulu’s live TV service, the newest Net-delivered subscription streaming TV services, which cater to customers who don’t want to commit to a traditional pay-TV package. And Sony’s PlayStation Vue, which launched two years ago, recently dropped the channels, too.

DirecTV Now does include MTV and several other Viacom channels in its $35 entry-level package and competitor Sling TV has BET, Comedy Central and Nick Jr. on one of its $25 entry-level lineups. But to get MTV you need to choose Sling’s Comedy Extra package, which costs an extra $5 monthly and also includes MTV2 and Spike.

Viacom’s CEO Bob Bakish said this week that the company is in “very advanced” discussions on an “entry-level” entertainment programming pay-TV package costing $10 to $20. What could be included is still a mystery.

The package could be ordered as a standalone subscription service or as part of a larger bundle on current pay-TV and Net TV services.

Meanwhile, some pay-TV customers have to  decide whether to pay moreto keep MTV and other channels as promotional deals they had with Time Warner Cable.

In Lexington, Ky., residents complained about price hikes and channels going black to local officials, who themselves were experiencing the channel switches. “I know my constituents are upset about the rate increase,” said Urban County Councilperson Jennifer Mossotti.

When Mossotti was told her bill was rising $21 each month she asked if she could drop telephone service from her triple-play bundle. Mossotti says she was told that would actually cost more because of the discounts within the bundle.

Time Warner Cable would sometimes negotiate with customers on rate increases, Mossotti says. “Now it’s like take it or leave it,” she said. “It’s really frustrating. It’s a monopoly with not very good customer service.”

Charter Communications declined comment for this story. But other pay-TV providers may be debating similar decisions as they, like Charter, seek to balance costs while maintaining their subscriber base, says Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group. “The No. 1 cost is programming,” he said. “Viacom has been hit the most because they don’t have a Top 10 network, so they are a little bit more vulnerable.”