Is the NCAA in danger?

January 30, 2013

The NCAA attempted to have a court case filed by former players thrown out in court.  The former players led by Ed O’Bannon want to recoup some of the broadcast right fee revenue that has only been shared by the NCAA and member institutions.  This initially focused on re-broadcasts of games, but now a new ruling from Judge Claudia Wilken is signaling that players (former and current) can go ahead with their antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA.  So what does this mean exactly?  If, and that is still a big if, but if the NCAA loses this lawsuit, it could mean that the face of collegiate sport as we know it could change forever.  It would also mean that the NCAA could be held liable for hundreds of millions (or even billions) of dollars in revenue to be paid back to former student-athletes.  That would be in addition to having to potentially split some of the broadcast revenues from here on out with student-athletes in those events.  If such events were to transpire, this could mean that many programs which need their current level of revenue from broadcast right revenue would find themselves short of money, and that they would probably find themselves in the red.  I would anticipate athletic departments either going into the red, or making cuts to many programs on campus in an attempt to stay financially stable.

What would all of this mean?  It would be a major sweeping change in athletics, and the financial and economic structure of how the NCAA and member athletic departments do business.  It would also make things more interesting as it would push forward the discussion of whether a student-athlete is an employee or not.  Many argue both sides of this, with discussion of whether the National Letter of Intent which all student-athletes sign is a contract or not.

This is still in its early stages, and is sure to be battled in court for quite some time.  With that said, I’m sure many in the NCAA and athletics are probably sweating a bit after today’s ruling.


NBC Coverage and the Olympics

August 6, 2012

For most of the world, the Olympics has been a wonderful live sporting event.  For the United States, it has mostly been enjoyed via the wonders of tape delay.  I personally use a mix of Japanese television streaming and NBC live streaming to try and watch most of the events on the internet, but that came to a stop today as the NBC online stream pretty much died right as the men’s 100 meter final was about to take place.  Some were thinking that NBC didn’t want to show the live event, so everyone would have to tune in to the tape-delayed coverage in the evening.

So here I sit in front of the TV waiting to watch the men’s 100 meters (which I will not say what happens for those who don’t know the result).  In fact, some metrics are claiming that around 2 billion people worldwide viewed the men’s 100 meter final live.  This article discusses the viewership (Spoiler alert: it tells you who wins the 100 meters) and how NBC denied the ability to watch the moment live in the U.S.  This would normally seem to make the Olympics less desirable for viewers, as the Uncertainty of Outcome hypothesis notes that for a match where fans can easily predict the outcome, fans will be less likely to attend that match.  NBC researchers seem to be finding the exact opposite of this, saying that viewers who know what is going to happen have been more likely to tune into the Olympics.  I think that they may just be capturing those fans who would watch the Olympics no matter what, and are checking the outcome of matches before hand because they want to know what happens, as it happens. It is also likely, that because the NBC has been heavily editing programming to show Americans winning, that Americans are more likely to tune in because they really are nationalistic and want to see the U.S. win those golds!  NBC has been crafty though, they heavily edited the women’s gymnastic team finals in the U.S., removing an early fall and mistakes by the Russians to make it look like the competition was neck and neck.  This despite the fact that the U.S. jumped to an early lead and really had no trouble winning the gold for the women’s teams gymnastics.  NBC went as far as to not show point standings throughout the telecast in order to give the sense of drama.  In some sense, even though their research shows uncertainty of outcome might not matter, they are still trying to create it… even when it doesn’t exist.

Also, the Olympics do not really compete with any noteworthy programming at this time of year, so it is a good time to be NBC.  In the previous cycle it was said that NBC potentially lost around $200 million in revenue on the Olympics.  The chairman of NBC noted that there is a chance that the Olympics this cycle might make a profit, as the ratings and ad revenue from the Olympics has been very strong.  NBC is really trying all they can do to get viewers and make money, but some will still be very unhappy about the tape delay and jingoistic coverage of the Olympics.  If you want examples, just head to deadspin or go to twitter and type “NBCFail”.  The number of people using this hashtag is staggering.

Fox wins rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup

October 22, 2011

As I flipped between ESPN and FX (a Fox channel) tonight, I saw them broadcasting news that Fox had won the bid for the broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup in the United States.  The big news was made more so by the large numbers in relation to the bid.  Fox, Telemundo (an NBC held Spanish language channel) and Spanish language radio paid a combined $1.2 billion for the rights to the two tournaments.  Fox by themselves are going to pay around $425 million.  To put that into perspective the current right holders of ESPN and Univision paid a combined $425 million for the U.S. rights for the 2010 and 2014 World Cup.  They are saying that FIFA has really cashed in with this new mega bid, with the new rights holders (as of 2015) paying close to double the price than their previous competitors.  While the World Cup has become more popular in the U.S. in recent years, I am not sure that this deal is really worth it for Fox.

As I write this, I am having a bar scroll on the bottom of my TV saying that DirectTV (my television provider in the U.S.) is about to drop FX, Fox Sports, Fox Soccer Channel, and Fox Soccer Plus.  These would be all of the main channels through which the games would be broadcast in the U.S.  Naturally, I am not pleased, as Fox Soccer Channel is one of my main gateways to European soccer while living in the U.S.  While there is a lot of time till Fox wins the deals, I think the availability of the ESPN channels is much better, and makes me worry about whether I’ll be able to watch the games I want in the United States, once Fox takes over the rights.

How a landlady may have changed the face of Broadcasting sport in Europe

October 7, 2011

This is a story of a landlady for a Portsmouth pub in the UK, who bought a satellite television decoder from another European country to show Premier League games.  Karen Murphy, the landlady for the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth bought a Greek decoder card to show Premier League games, the key point in all of this is the decoder card is cheaper than paying to show the games on BSkyB, as most establishments do in the UK.  This case made it all the way to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), where a ruling was made yesterday against Ms. Murphy who will be allowed to continue broadcasting games using the decoder.  The ECJ states that prohibiting:

“import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums”

However, the ECJ said that this area does fall under copyright protection in the UK which means that while Ms. Murphy lost because the card is used for broadcast to the public, it does open the door for private use of the cards.  The Guardian article notes:

However, the ECJ said live match coverage itself was not covered by copyright protection, although the Premier League could claim ownership of FAPL-branded opening video sequences, theme music, on-screen graphics and highlights of previous matches.

This means that as long as the FAPL and BSkyB ensure that match coverage includes enough copyright elements pubs will not be allowed to show foreign broadcasts.

The big implications of this case, is for individuals.  The ruling basically counter acts the territorial region-by-region rights which the Premier League sells.  It is now possible for fans to go out and get the cards and get Premier League for cheaper.  This means that fans could potentially try and get around paying the high BSkyB fees, which BSkyB can’t be a fan of as they paid over one billion pounds for the broadcast rights in the U.K.  The big implication is that the Premier League may be forced to change the method in which they sell broadcast rights from regional, to a single Pan-European package.

The Premier League had this to say:

“The areas of law involved are complicated and necessarily we will take our time to digest and understand the full meaning of the judgment and how it might influence the future sale of Premier League audio-visual rights in the European Economic Area.”

The Premier League will have to wait for some further court rulings in the UK high courts in regards to this case, but they are probably worried.  They are said to make a billion pounds for their non-UK television rights this year, and are receiving around 1.6 billion pounds for UK rights from BSkyB.  How they will potentially switch their sales of broadcast rights is an important question, with big financial implications for the league as well as fans and consumers alike.  As a side note, the Guardian had a poll, and almost 75% of people said they would now try to buy the foreign decoder cards to watch Premier League matches.