For those who subscribe to cable and have not yet cut the cord, one big thing keeping many of them in place is live sports. Most streaming services don’t give their subscribers access to live sports, especially not for the sorts of local team broadcasts that are usually exclusive to regional sports networks.
But what if there aren’t any sports?
That was the case for a period of several months when the coronavirus pandemic caused all major sports leagues to cease. As a result, many cable subscribers asked themselves what exactly they were paying for.
Now that sports, including Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, are back, one cable company is planning to offer credits for the games fans missed.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Comcast “plans to compensate its TV customers for canceled baseball games after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out nearly two-thirds of the Major League Baseball season.” Comcast, the report said, is expecting money back from regional sports networks and “will pass along to customers credits on their bills.” This is because customers otherwise were still paying regional sports fees.
In some cities, including its hometown of Philadelphia, Comcast itself is the owner of the regional sports network, so it’s not clear how that will work. It’s also not clear how the rebates will be handled for other sports that missed games.
In March, as the coronavirus spread and stay-at-home orders were issued, Major League Baseball announced a delay in the start of the 2020 season, closing spring training complexes and, in some cases, sending the players home. After months of negotiations, the season resumed in late July, with no fans in the stands. Barring further virus outbreaks that have already sidelined the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, each baseball team is set to play sixty games this season, rather than the usual 162.
For much of the shutdown, many regional sports networks reached into their archives and showed older games.
DirecTV announced in July that it was offering its Extra Innings out-of-market package for a reduced price of $90 for the remainder of the baseball season. The package normally costs $183 for the full 162-game season.
In quarterly earnings earlier this month, Comcast revealed that it lost 477,000 cable subscribers in the second quarter, although the company did add a net of 323,000 high-speed internet customers. The company’s $23.72 billion in revenue and 69 cents adjusted earnings per share both outperformed analyst expectations.
Last week, protesters in Philadelphia demonstrated outside of Comcast’s headquarters, demanding greater relief to low-income residents, and the opening of home Wi-Fi hotspots.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.