In one of the more logical decisions made by AT&T in recent years, the provider has decided to issue credits to all customers who have been paying for MLB Extra Innings or MLS Direct Kick this year.
In a brief blurb on their COVID-19 updates page, AT&T announced the credits, while also stating that any future payments would be postponed.
With the professional baseball and soccer seasons postponed or suspended, our customers who subscribed to MLB Extra Innings and MLS Direct Kick will receive credits for any payments already made toward their subscription and we have postponed future charges until we learn more from the leagues. We are also extending our cancellation policy for both products so that customers have two weeks from when the season starts (or resumes) to decide whether they want to cancel their subscription.
We continue to monitor the situation closely and are in contact with programmers and sports leagues as they plan their next steps. Any rebates we receive from programmers and sports leagues will be provided to our customers.
This year, MLB Extra Innings cost $30.50 a month for six months, or a lump sum of $183 for the season. AT&T’s website lists MLS Direct Kick as costing $22.25 a month for four months or an $89 lump sum payment. AT&T isn’t the only provider to offer these packages, but they’re the first major one we’ve seen that has decided to give refunds for them. Any Extra Innings subscriber has seen zero regular season games, and any Direct Kick subscriber hasn’t seen a match since the first weekend of March, so refunds are not only logical, but simply the right thing to do. I’d be stunned if we didn’t see other providers follow in AT&T’s footsteps over the coming weeks.
With the subscription packages removed from the equation, focus will turn to RSNs across providers. But I think what separates the RSNs from these packages is the content being provided. With Extra Innings and Direct Kick, you have to make a conscious decision to subscribe, and a subscriber is expecting live games. Subscribers generally get RSNs as part of a larger package and you don’t have the ability to pick and choose which networks in that package you want or don’t want. Also, RSNs are still giving viewers *some* content – it’s just live game content they’re not getting. When the Extra Innings and Direct Kick channels aren’t airing live games, they’re not airing other programming. They just throw up future schedules and elevator music. This isn’t the case with RSNs. They’re still on the air broadcasting content…it’s just not the content that brings in the most eyeballs.
The hurdles to jump over for RSN (let alone national sports network) refunds or credits are just too great, and would only start a domino effect that both networks and providers are desperate to avoid. But issuing credits for a live game subscription service? That seems much easier for providers to stomach.