Cable TV Customers Are Rightfully Pissed They're Still Paying For Cancelled Sports Programming
from the pay-a-lot,-get-a-little dept
For years, consumers have been bitching about the high cost of sports programming as it pertains to your monthly cable bill. Especially for those who don’t watch sports, but are often forced to pay the sky high prices for sports programming as part of a bloated cable bundle anyway. One survey a few years ago found that 56% of consumers would ditch ESPN in a heartbeat if it meant saving the $8 per month subscribers pay for the channel. The “regional sports fees” tacked on to subscriber bills have also long been a point of contention because they’re often used to help falsely advertise a lower rate.
This is the “norm” in more normal times. During a pandemic, sports have largely been cancelled, but consumers are still shelling out big bucks for sports programming that costs them an arm and a leg. That’s resulted in a spike in complaints to NY Attorney General Letitia James, who this week announced she would be asking the nation’s six biggest traditional cable providers to reduce or eliminate fees related to sports programming while there’s, you know, no sports:
“At a time when so many New Yorkers have lost their jobs and are struggling, it is grossly unfair that cable and satellite television providers would continue to charge fees for services they are not even providing,? said Attorney General James. ?These companies must step up and immediately propose plans to cut charges and provide much needed financial relief. This crisis has brought new economic anxiety for all New Yorkers, and I will continue to protect the wallets of working people at every turn.?
Many users pay upwards of $20 in monthly fees for sports programming that no longer exists. That’s in addition to the $40 to $50 of each $100 cable bill sports programming is responsible for. But when users call to complain or ask for refunds, they’re just ignored. Cable providers aren’t exactly thrilled either, with Dish Network saying it wants a break from the $80 million to $100 million fees it pays ESPN for April sports broadcasts given there, well, aren’t any. While many sports networks have adapted to the pandemic by airing a lot of reruns, they’re not actually airing the content everybody pays an arm and a leg for.
And while cable providers may not like it, they can at least pass those costs along to the consumer, whom experts say is the real loser in the equation:
“One would think that sports network programmers would credit distributors for channels paid for when they can’t deliver the content that was promised,” LightShed says. Unfortunately, “distributors such as Comcast have to pay sports network programmers regardless if what content airs, and in turn, the consumer is the loser.”
That said, charging for services you don’t actually provide has long been the MO of the cable and broadcast sector.
Cable TV has, for more than a decade, been plagued by obnoxious feuds between broadcasters and cable providers that routinely end up with consumers losing access to content they pay for. Broadcasters repeatedly want more money for the same programming (often sports), then demand higher rates from cable providers. Cable providers balk, the two sides pout and black out content, and consumers repeatedly lose access to content they pay for. Almost never do you see refunds, and regulators usually treat these feuds as “boys will be boys” behavior between gentlemen, not worthy of intervention.
The problem is that unlike broadband, cable TV is becoming an increasingly competitive market thanks to the rise of streaming alternatives. For many, sports was one of the only reasons to still subscribe to traditional cable TV. With no sports, analysts expect the rate of cord cutting to increase. Traditional cable and broadcast executives already had an extreme allergy to competing on price and channel bundle flexibility, and without their ace in the hole and many consumers facing economic hardship, the sector is going to find charging an arm and a leg for bloated cable TV bundles a far more difficult proposition than ever.