Cable TV providers including AT&T, Charter Communications and Verizon Communications are offering a total of $1.1 billion in refunds to customers who bought sports packages this year but were deprived of viewing slam dunks and home runs because of games being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Brandon Ross, an analyst with LightShed Partners, told Bloomberg News that TV providers could pay out more than a billion dollars in rebates. Charter will provide $218 million in refunds, chief financial officer Christopher Winfrey said in an earnings call with investment analysts.
Verizon said its refunds will be credited to customer bills this month, but didn’t disclose how much it is offering overall. A Verizon spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch that “the refunds will vary by market and package.”
TV providers have spent recent months extracting money from their regional sports networks, or RSNs — the arm of the company that broadcasts live sports. That money is being passed on to customers as rebates, according to the companies.
Dish Network said it plans to give customers an RSN bill credit and replacement sports programming for free. The company didn’t detail when those rebates would appear or how much they total.
“The value that we will be returning to our customers through credits and replacement programming exceeds the refunds that we’ve received from content providers,” Dish told CBS MoneyWatch in a statement.
The refunds come more than six months after New York Attorney General Letitia James pushed TV providers to cut customer charges. James said in April that companies should provide rebates “at least until live sports programming is resumed.”
The pandemic led to cancellations of almost every sport at the collegiate and professional level, most notably the NBA temporarily suspending its games in March.
The NCAA scrapped its March Madness basketball tournament in March. A month later, the Little League World Series was canceled. The Kentucky Derby was called off in May, while in June tennis tournament Wimbledon was canceled. In July, college football began canceling or postponing games as players tested positive for COVID-19.
Many sports leagues — including the NFL, NBA and NCAA football — have since resumed their games and plan to welcome fans back to their arenas at limited capacity.