Here’s How Networks Are Reacting to Cancellation and Suspension of Sporting Events

By A.J. Katz 

The novel coronavirus is affecting all aspects of American life, and that includes sports.

The NBA suspended play for at least 30 days, and other leagues followed. The NHL and MLS suspended their operations. MLB cancelled the remainder of its spring training schedule and announced that it’s pushing the start of the regular season back by two weeks.

Then, there’s cancellation of NCAA March Madness, both the men’s and women’s tournaments. In fact, all NCAA spring sports are being sidelined.


The Masters golf tournament has been postponed, NASCAR has postponed races at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend and Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend, and the Barclays English Premier League is being suspended until at least April 4, “when situation will be reviewed.”

March and April are two of the greatest months on the sporting calendar for fans, but the health of the athlete and the observer should take precedence.

CBS says it will fill its March Madness prime time programming absences with repeats of its prime time shows through the end of March.

Networks which broadcast live sports stand to lose a ton of money.

The independent research firm Moffett Nathanson estimates that if the rest of the 2019-2020 NBA season is canceled, ESPN could lose $481 million in NBA ad revenue, while WarnerMedia, which operates TNT (and consequently the NBA on TNT), could lose $210 million.

Adweek TV/media editor Jason Lynch writes:

Networks and their clients are in the process of determining what will become of the ad buys that had been locked in for these various sporting events. Some could be shifted into other programming, either replacement shows or elsewhere on the respective network, though as MoffettNathanson’s Michael Nathanson said in a research note, “Due to the importance of high-profile sports to these ad buyers, we have a hard time seeing why and where these dollars would be redeployed.”

“We’re in uncharted territory,” one TV ad sales exec told Lynch.

While these media companies are understandably freaked about the prospect of losing massive amounts of dollars, they are also standing by their partners.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” Disney (owner of ESPN) said in a statement. “We have great relationships with our league partners and are confident we can address all issues constructively going forward. Our immediate focus is on everyone’s safety and well-being.”

“The health and safety of our employees are our top priority. These are uncharted waters,” said an NBC Sports spokesperson. “We intend to work collaboratively with our advertising partners to deliver on their original needs with the least disruption possible.”

Turner Sports and CBS Sports, issued a joint statement, saying, “We are fully supportive of the NCAA’s decision to cancel this year’s NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship. We’ll continue to work closely with them and all of our partners as we prioritize the health and well-being of everyone involved.”

As for the cancellation of NBA games, Turner Sports said, “We have a long-standing relationship with the NBA, and we’re supportive of the actions being taken to help protect the health and well-being of everyone involved.  We’ll partner closely with league officials to evaluate and determine next steps at the appropriate time.”

Fox Sports said in a statement, “Fox Sports’ priority, first and foremost, is the health and safety of everyone. We fully support our league partners and are actively working with them to navigate this evolving and unprecedented situation.”