FILE - A baseball game. Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP
FILE - A baseball game. Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP

Sports fans need relief on their TV bills until live games return

By DPA Time of article published May 3, 2020

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NEW YORK – Now that major league baseball teams, including the New York Yankees and Mets, have – at least – offered fans refunds or future credits for games that have not been played because of the coronavirus pandemic, it's time for cable operators and satellite providers to give refunds to subscribers who are paying 20 per cent of their cable bill for live games that are not being played.

The distributors (like Comcast, Spectrum and DirecTV) and networks (like ESPN, FS1, YES, MSG and SNY), are already butting heads over who should pay the bill. Should the networks still be able to collect the same rights fees from distributors for providing less live programming? While these companies pretend, er, try to work out their own problems, they let the consumer, many who have lost their jobs, twist in the wind.

ESPN, in its own version of three-card monte, is hyping (on all its outlets) and presenting "The Last Dance," the Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary, as if it is premium programming that somehow represents a substitute for live games. To some extent, the game of smoke and mirrors has worked. Inside the Valley of the Stupid and in other media precincts, the documentary has hypnotized the Gasbags and is being discussed, and analyzed, as if it were a game.

Yet, there's hardly a word about how cable outlets and networks are ripping off consumers by not yet offering any refunds or rebates for live programming they now can't receive because of the pandemic. Let's face it, ESPN's "First Take" bloviators are not going to get into a debate on how their own company is a major player in the greedy world of sports programmers.

All Gasbags are too busy discussing the latest fantasy plan, leaked by MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL, concerning when a sport is going to start, or re-start its seasons. Fans are reluctant to complain because they are used to being shafted by their local cable distributor or national/regional sports network programmer.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James is speaking out. She has called on seven of the largest cable/satellite operators to prepare and provide "plans to the attorney general's office for how they will provide financial relief to consumers until live sports programming is resumed."

We wish the AG well in her pursuit of consumer justice. No one should hold their breath waiting for her to succeed. Over three decades of following the Wild West of cable, we've seen how adept the industry is in lobbying and lawyering-up to protect its turf and bottom line, even in situations where they are clearly charging fees for programming they are not providing.

It's ironic that during a time, when these companies are producing public service ads, featuring talent saluting our first responders and urging everyone to "stay safe," they can't provide relief to folks they are quite capable of taking care of. Their own customers.


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