Last updated on May 11, 2020
Some providers break out sports fees on bills. With seasons on pause because of the coronavirus, it’s another reminder to customers of what they’re paying for but not getting.
Joyce Sanz recently called Comcast hoping to reduce the $164 each month her family pays for cable television and internet. An after-school program manager at an elementary school in Miami, Sanz wanted to trim expenses in case the economic fallout related to the coronavirus pandemic lasts months.
Sanz said she asked the Comcast customer service representative for a discount or deferred payment options. No dice. She asked to be charged the prices offered to new customers. No can do.
Finally, she spotted a specific line on her bill. “I am paying a sports fee,” she told the representative, recalling the conversation later during an interview.
“Oh, we can’t take those out” was the response, leading Sanz to the obvious question:
“If you are not giving the service, why do I have to keep paying for it?”
Comcast and other cable and satellite TV companies are still providing subscribers with sports channels, of course. Sanz can still watch Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports Sun and ESPN. But without live games featuring the Miami Heat, Miami Marlins, or other professional and college teams, those channels have been shells of their former selves.
Nobody knows when major sports might be played widely again. Games would certainly be embraced by fans, but the sports ecosystem has taken a back seat to deeper concerns of public health and the global economy.
But already sports leagues, television networks and television distributors are firing the opening salvos in what will be an exhausting war to determine who should pay for hundreds of millions — perhaps billions — in economic damages.
“You always lawyer for the thing that will never happen,” said Erin McPherson, the head of consumer content and partnerships at Verizon. “And the thing that you think will never happen, happened.”
As that takes shape, most American households will have little choice but to continue paying for live sports even as sports channels are reduced to reruns of historic games, documentaries and sports video game simulations.
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