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THE FINE PRINT

Comcast refunding more money for missed sports broadcasts

Many fans were charged for sports programming that was never broadcast during the pandemic. Above, opening day at Yankee Stadium in New York on April 1.
Many fans were charged for sports programming that was never broadcast during the pandemic. Above, opening day at Yankee Stadium in New York on April 1.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

For the third time since October, Comcast is providing a modest credit to customers to make up for the canceled broadcasts of major league sports during the pandemic.

Comcast caught flak last year when it continued to charge customers a monthly $8.75 “regional sports fee,” even though major league sports had suspended their seasons and there were no games to watch.

The latest credit, announced in an e-mail to customers on Thursday, is for $17.07. That comes on top of credits of $6.42 in January and $4.55 in October, for a total $28.04. (The amount of credit varies slightly, depending on a customer’s location and other factors, Comcast said.)

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According to Comcast, the credits are a result of its negotiations with regional sports networks, such as NESN and NBC Sports Boston, which produce the coverage of NBA, NHL, and MLB games and charge Comcast for the right to broadcast them.

Comcast says it is passing along to its customers 100 percent of the fees it recovers from the regional sports networks through negotiations.

“Good news!” Comcast said in the e-mail. “You’ll see an adjustment of $17.07 on your bill this month.”

“Many sporting events and broadcasts were put on hold last year from April through December due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said. “We continue to work hard to recover the fees regional sports networks charged us during the hiatus.”

More credits may be coming. The credits provided so far represent less than half of the $78.75 in regional sports fees Comcast charged customers from April to December.

But it’s not all good news for Comcast customers. In January, the cable giant increased its regional sports fee to $10.75 a month, up from $8.75.

Comcast has increased the regional sports fee every year since 2015, when it was $1 a month. That represents about a tenfold increase in six years.

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Most subscribers do not have the option of dropping sports programming because of how Comcast packages its “deals.”

Comcast is the dominant cable provider in Massachusetts, with about 2 million customers, about 70 percent of the market. It is the only option for cable in about 130 cities and towns, including Brockton, Cambridge, New Bedford, Quincy, and Salem.

The next-largest cable provider in Massachusetts is Verizon, with close to 20 percent of the market. Asked about refunds of regional sports fees, a spokesman said last week that customers have received two rounds of credits, in December and April.

Verizon said “the amount for each credit depended on where customers lives” and other variables, without disclosing the amount of credits it has provided.


Got a problem? Send your consumer issue to sean.murphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.