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Sports rebates could return US$1.1bn to US customers

Pay-TV subscribers in the US are set to receive US$1.1 billion in the form of refunds and credits as a rebate for this year’s disruption to sport caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Providers such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. continued to require payment for sports-programming despite the COVID-19 outbreak cancelling sports events including college basketball tournaments and the professional leagues of Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL).

Following a period of unwinding insurance settlements, league payments and regional sports-network (RSN) fees, rebates from RSNs could total as much as US$1.1 billion, according to Brandon Ross, an analyst from LightShed Partners, signalling a substantial financial blow to broadcasters amid the pandemic.

AT&T have said they will provide “courtesy adjustments” to customers who paid for regional sports channels from April to July.

Verizon became the first of the big pay-TV providers to announce to customers that repayments were coming in the form of credits on their bills.

The company said: “We at Verizon remain resolute in our plan to pass on the Covid-related refunds that we receive from regional sports networks to impacted Fios TV customers.

“We are pleased to begin issuing bill credits to these customers next month.”

Charter Communications has vowed to credit as much as US$218 million back to pay-TV customers for sports-network rebates, according to executives on an earnings call held in October.

Sports broadcasting rebates have been felt around the world, with Sky Sports confirming a rebate of UK£170 million to the English Premier League back in June, although no rebate was paid directly to its customers as subscription charges were cut as sporting events across the world were increasingly being cancelled amid the coronavirus crisis.

Author: Jake Wilkin