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Sports Rebates May Return $1.1 Billion to Pay-TV Customers

(Bloomberg) — More than $1 billion will soon start to flow back to U.S. pay-TV subscribers in the form of refunds and credits, compensating them for the year’s many pandemic-related sports cancellations.



LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 28: The Baylor Bears and the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns warm up before their game in the #VegasBubble basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on November 28, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)


© Photographer: David Becker/Getty Images North America
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 28: The Baylor Bears and the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns warm up before their game in the #VegasBubble basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena on November 28, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Pay-TV providers like AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc. kept collecting sports-programming fees even as the Covid-19 outbreak canceled sporting events like college basketball tournaments and disrupted pro leagues like the MLB, NBA and NHL.

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Now, after months of unwinding insurance settlements, league payments and regional-sports-network fees, the total rebates from RSNs could be as much as $1.1 billion, according to an estimate by Brandon Ross, an analyst with LightShed Partners.

“The only winner is the customer,” said Ross, adding that the payback will vary by market. For example, the math says about $14 for the average Charter video subscriber, Ross said.

Charter intends to credit as much as $218 million back to pay-TV customers for sports-network rebates, according to executives on an Oct. 30 earnings call.

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

“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,” the company said in an announcement to customers earlier this week. “We are pleased to begin issuing bill credits to these customers next month.”

AT&T said it will provide “courtesy adjustments” to customers who paid for regional sports channels from April to July. Customers will receive the full amount that the company receives back from the sports networks, according to a spokesman. He couldn’t provide a total value of the refunds.

Satellite-TV provider Dish Network Corp. also said it was giving bill credits to affected subscribers, along with free replacement sports coverage.

“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,” the company said in an emailed statement.

(Updates with Dish in final two paragraphs.)

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