By Ken Reed

Sports fans aren’t happy campers these days.

First of all, there aren’t any sporting events going on due to the pandemic. No basketball. No hockey. No baseball. No college or high school sports.

But they are also upset that they have to keep paying big sports fees on their cable and satellite TV bills at a time when there aren’t any sports broadcasts to watch.

“If you are not giving the service, why do I have to keep paying for it?” said Joyce Sanz, one such sports fan.

It’s not an unreasonable question, especially given what other industries are doing for consumers.

For example, auto insurance companies are giving refunds, credits or discounts to their customers who are driving a lot less during the pandemic.

“We insure more cars than anyone and we see from our claims activity people are driving less. This dividend is one of the ways we’re working to help our customers during this unprecedented situation,” said Michael Tipsord, chairman, president and CEO of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company.

However, sports cable/satellite fees are a little more complicated than auto insurance premiums because cable and satellite companies have to pay networks like ESPN for the right to distribute their content. The ESPNs of the world probably won’t give cable and satellite distributors refunds, credits or discounts unless the pro sports leagues give them refunds, credits or discounts on their rights fees.

Nevertheless, Verizon is looking at ways to reduce what their approximate four million Fios TV subscribers are paying. Fios is Verizon’s bundled internet, telephone and television service.

“We don’t want to charge our customers for content they aren’t watching and receiving,” said Erin McPherson, head of consumer content and partnerships at Verizon. “Whether that is going to be in the form of a refund or discontinued billing, we are looking at all of those options right now.”

DAZN, a sports streaming service with a minor footprint in the United States but a big one in other countries, has reportedly told some sports leagues they will defer payments for suspended or canceled games.

It’s a safe bet the sports programming financial tug of war will likely only get more intense as upset sports fans continue dealing with the lack of sporting events to watch.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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