Getty Images | DonNichols
Cable TV companies are still charging customers for sports channels, even though the coronavirus pandemic is forcing all major sports leagues to be suspended.
Continued fees include Regional Sports Network (RSN) fees, which often increase customer bills by nearly $ 10 in exchange for access to local live sports broadcasts from professionals and universities. However, RSN fees are only part of the puzzle as national sports broadcasts on channels such as ESPN, NBC, ABC and Fox account for a certain percentage of the package fees paid by TV customers.
Comcast told Ars today that "all discounts will be set as soon as the NBA, NHL and MLB announce how their season is going, including the number of games played, and of course we will pass those discounts or other adjustments on." to our customers. "
As Comcast's statement stated, the leagues themselves have not yet made a final decision as to whether they will end their season. If the leagues replay most or all of the canceled games, they are unlikely to give the programmers any money back. However, as the pandemic progresses, the chances of the leagues ending their full list of games in the regular season and after the season decrease.
Verizon, who runs the FiOS TV service, told the New York Times last week: "We don't want to charge our customers for content that they can't see and receive … whether it's in the form of a refund. " or no longer billed, we are currently reviewing all of these options. "
But Verizon said it can't do it alone. "We need the broadcasters and RSNs and the leagues to work with this approach," said a Times company spokesman.
We asked Verizon for an update today and will update this story if we get a response.
Charter, the third largest TV provider after Comcast and DirecTV owner AT&T, told Ars: "This is a very complicated situation involving several parties with individual agreements, the resolution of which is likely to take months. We are watching this situation accurate and accurate As far as we receive discounts for canceled sports programs, we will pass them on to our customers. "Charter does not charge a separate RSN fee, but takes into account the cost of live sports channels in its packages.
AT&T said it was "in touch with programmers and sports leagues as they plan their next steps" and that "any discounts we get from programmers or leagues will be made available to our customers."
Dish Network declined to comment.
Ars also sent inquiries to major sports channels (ESPN, ABC, Fox, CBS, and NBC) and the major US sports leagues that typically host games (NBA, NHL, and MLB), and we will update this article with all the answers, that we get.
To make matters worse, how many parties are involved in live sports contracts. Individual teams in the NBA, NHL and MLB sell the rights to their games to regional sports networks, which in turn sell the rights to broadcast their channels to cable, satellite and streaming TV providers. In addition to individual teams, the major sports leagues have large contracts with game programmers that are broadcast nationally and not only in the regions in which the participating teams are located.
Another disadvantage is that cable companies often own the channels that broadcast live sports. Comcast owns NBC, including regional sports networks, so other cable television companies have to pay Comcast for the right to broadcast many national and local sporting events. AT&T owns Turner Sports and RSNs, while Charter owns or operates several Spectrum brand sports channels. We asked these companies how they deal with the contracts they have with other TV providers, but we haven't received any essential information. Charter said: "We are in constant contact with the teams and our network distributors on this matter. We will of course meet our contractual obligations."
Obviously, sports channels are still broadcasting reruns of old games, sports talk shows, and other content. But for most sports fans, this is much less interesting than live games. NBC Sports Philadelphia, one of Comcast's RSNs, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that "it continues to offer compelling content to fans of Philadelphia region teams."
"We continue to work with our team and league partners while we wait for the live games to return," said NBC Sports Philadelphia. Comcast's RSN fees vary by region and are $ 8.75 in Philadelphia, the Inquirer report says.
European residents have an easier time lowering their bills, the investigator wrote:
The situation is not the same overseas. With Sky Sports in Europe, customers can pause their subscriptions until the promotion resumes. The pay TV landscape is different in Europe, where it is easier to buy sports channels separately than the traditional cable bundle.
There will likely be no definitive answers to TV customer refunds in the U.S. anytime soon. Customers may receive refunds even if they don't make changes to their service plans. However, the amount of these refunds can be disappointing. People who subscribe to cable television primarily for live sports may want to downgrade or cancel their TV packages until the sports leagues return. However, be careful in cases where cable contracts and early termination fees apply.
Disclosure: The Advance / Newhouse partnership, which owns 13 percent of the charter, is part of Advance Publications. Advance Publications owns Condé Nast, which Ars Technica owns.