Pay-TV in Tough Spot With Sports Fees, Relying on Esports

LONDON—Sports fans aren’t the only ones missing the live action put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, pay-TV providers and content rights holders are facing difficult times as they are forced to continue paying for the license rights to sports even while they are off the air, and subsequently charge their viewers for them. Pay-TV providers who have rights to broadcast NBA, NHL, MLB and NCAA games (all currently cancelled or suspended) still have to pay the fees associated with carrying the games. As a result, service providers are still charging end users for things like regional sports networks even though the most popular content they provide is currently not available. “Content rights holders and pay-TV providers must sort out license fee issues due to cancelled sporting events as soon as possible to insulate against customer enmity and defections,” said Tammy Parker, senior analyst at GlobalData. Some providers have said they are considering offering refunds for the charged sports fees, but no decision has been made by any as of publication. Instead, many are turning to esports to offer sports-related content to viewers.

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