Typically, about ten of the top fifty most viewed programs on cable are sport programs in the run of a week. These includes all sorts of sporting events and games. But with the COVID-19 crisis, professional and amateur sports leagues have had to either pause or cancel their seasons. Currently, none of the top fifty viewed cable programs are sports programs, as channels such as ESPN have been forced to come up with a new plan to entertain their viewers: playing the classics.
Sports channels are known to feature the largest of professional sporting events, entertaining millions and generating a large profit by selling advertisements. Channels are having to resort to old footage of historic moments and comebacks which you may have been aware of but never seen before (e.g., the Toronto Raptors NBA championship run just last year).
However, in terms of ratings, these reruns are not enough to keep the fans enticed in the sporting world for the moment as the decline has clearly begun for these sporting channels. Companies who are also taking a hit from the world crisis are not going to be paying as much for their ads to be on air a channel not receiving as many viewers.
These sports channels are unable to turn much if any profit at the moment and it is hurting them quickly. The sporting industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and, in order to acquire the rights to air these games on your channel, you are required to pay a hefty price to begin with.
For example, according to Solberg examining the economics of sports rights, the rights to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney was sold for $1.3 billion dollars. Now imagine how much was spent by a channel to air this year’s Olympics which they will not be able air in this calendar year.
With sports schedules being shuffled around these channels are having issues filling up their time slots and creating a presentable product to keep viewers enticed for the meantime. The leagues and their owners may be taking a hit from not playing, but the channels which show these games may be getting hit harder.