"We all ought to wake up and be careful ... so we don't blow this into smithereens at some point and invite the government to do it for you, which I think nobody would be a winner in," Powell said in an interview this week on C-SPAN's "The Communicators," according to Joe Flint at latimes.com.
Powell, who chaired the FCC from 2001 to 2005, is now the head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., the lobbying arm of the cable industry.
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the fees broadcast and cable channels pay for television rights for sports. Many of those costs are ultimately passed on to pay-TV subscribers.
Citing ESPN's new deal to keep "Monday Night Football," Powell said, "I can't control that the NFL has the power to demand a 73% increase for 'Monday Night Football,' which I find astonishingly insane." Powell said he wonders if there is a point where distributors say, "I can't handle it anymore."