There has been much talk of “cord-cutting” recently, as reports roll in of cable channels— sports-related channels among them—losing millions of subscribers.
Consumers are dropping cable because
they have a buffet of new alternatives
for streaming video content, including “over-the-top” services such as the
Roku Box and Apple TV that deliver
content via the Internet. Instead of
paying a monthly fee for cable, many
people are paying for one or more
The advent of new streaming
services is a great opportunity for
many sports organizations. In the
past, television was the only option
for getting live broadcasts to consumers. But television broadcasts
were expensive and fairly limited, which meant that less popular
sports had a difficult time getting
on the air. Now, any organization
can produce live video much more
cheaply and get it to viewers relatively inexpensively. But this also
means that organizations will have to address issues related
to content distribution that they may not have faced before.
Below are some issues to consider:
1. Exclusivity. When choosing a content provider, consider whether you want that company to be the exclusive
provider of your content (streaming, over-the-air broadcast,
etc.), or whether you want to use multiple providers. On the
one hand, you may get a better deal in return for exclusivity. On the other hand, you may need more assurance that
the provider will do a good job in all areas. In addition, if
you foresee the possibility that your sport or event becomes
popular enough eventually to get on TV, you may not want
to limit yourself to an online-only provider.
2. Term Length. Technology is
changing rapidly. Any time that you
contract exclusively or semi-exclusively
with one provider, you are potentially
locking yourself out of new technology that may develop during the term of
your contract. Again, you may get a better deal for a longer contract, but consider how long you are willing to lock
yourself into a given route to viewers.
3. Agreements with Talent. There will
be a lot of people involved in the broad-
cast or livestream production. Make sure
that you have agreements in place with all
of them that clearly define everyone’s
roles and rights. For example, who
hires the talent and who pays them?
Who owns the raw footage? All of
these questions need to be answered.
4. Get the Rights in Place. Make
sure you have the rights you need. Do
you have all of the rights to broadcast
your event? For example, make sure
that the athletes have granted you the
rights to film and broadcast them.
The same goes for fans; this can be
done via things like ticket-back lan-
guage, signage at the event or both.
In just a few years, the face of
sports broadcasting has changed dramatically. While televi-
sion is still king, sports organizations can take advantage of
many new opportunities to get content to viewers through
platforms that did not even exist 10 years ago. With these
new opportunities, it is important to make sure you have all
of your legal needs in place up front. n
Cutting the Cord
When it comes to content distribution, the new era of live
media poses risks and rewards for sports organizations
Steven Smith serves as co-chairman of
the sports and entertainment practice at
Bryan Cave, LLP, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
He can be reached at
com or (719) 473-3800. Associate Suzanne
Crespo contributed to this article.
By Steven Smith
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