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New ESPN Study Finds Fans in Favor of Live Sports Resuming Without Spectators

Stephanie Sengwe

Fans of live sports are getting a bit antsy since all sporting events were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. A new study conducted by ESPN Research & Insights found that fans are open to the prospect of watching live games without spectators.

According to the study, not only are fans planning on consuming more sports-related content once games resume again, but 65 percent said they are open to watching basketball, hockey or baseball games with empty stadiums. Only 35 percent said they believe sports should resume when fans can attend games in person.

“Sports serve as an escape and provide joy in the current times, as evidenced by record-breaking audiences for ‘The Last Dance’ and ‘NFL Draft,’” said SVP, ESPN Research & Insights, Cary Meyers. “That deep need for sports was expressed by both avid and casual fans, with an eagerness for live sports to return in some way on TV even without fans in attendance.”

Live sports programming has been a hot topic lately as the coronavirus remains at large and so much remains uncertain. Just last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James sent letters to various cable and satellite companies urging them to cut fees attributed to live sports programming since they have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In letters addressed to Altice USA, AT&T Inc., Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, DISH Network, RCN Corporation and Verizon Communications, James requested that the companies put forth plans indicating how they will provide financial relief to consumers until live sports programming picks up again.

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge responded days later, stating that cutting those fees is not entirely up to the cable company. “We have a structure where its all bundled together and tied together contractually and we have very little control over it,” he said during the company’s Q1 earnings call. “We would love to see our customers be relieved if they can be. Ultimately it’s the athletes who are getting the money and … someone has to give up their money and give it back to the consumer and that has not happened yet.”

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