Hot Topic - Sports Rights
Traditional television broadcasters have been backed into a painful corner. Video on demand services of the subscription kind are steadily raiding viewers who will pay for top flight drama and comedy series. Big name live sports is increasingly the domaine of pay-TV operators. Free-to-air broadcasters find the left-overs less than tasty.
The transcendent advantage of live events, and competition for them, has the complete and full attention of television broadcasters. This means, for most broadcasters, sports. Acquiring rights to the biggest events is evermore costly as is the expense of maximising every produced second. The thrill of the unexpected, surprising and even shocking attract huge audiences to live sports, perhaps more than victories and defeats. It is a television broadcaster's major prize.
European public broadcasters once held a distinct advantage in sports broadcasting, largely from generous staffing and advantageous sports rights contracts. Those days are fading fast. Pay-TV operators and telecoms have roared into sports broadcasting with buckets of money.
Television viewers have benefited greatly from new actors on the media scene. All that competition from nimble new faces has brought more cool stuff to screens of all size. And prices are lower. It’s making broadcasters crazy.
The pay-TV business is certainly getting complicated. Customers once were enticed by premium movies and sports, a fairly straight-forward proposition; take it or leave it. Now the product range may include broadband and mobile connectivity as well as boxes on top of the TV set and boxes filled with DVDs. Every customer in the digital age can custom-order a basket filled with every want and desire.
It’s another digital dividend. Telecoms fat with cash are taking over the television business. Once again distribution trumps content. Lucy has grabbed the football once again.
Sports rule media, plainly in evidence from last weekend’s parade of big events. Broadcasters typically pull out all the stops to attract viewers, investing in time, talent and technology. Pay-TV challenges free-to-air channels and all-sports channels proliferate. Players play, viewers watch and rights fees rise.
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National authorities have at their disposal a variety of economic measures to stimulate, develop and improve competitive market sectors. Sometimes they miss the big picture or have special circumstances. Within the European Union an executive branch of the European Commission stands ready to clarify the rules of each and every game. State Aid rules are developing as the playing field gets bigger. 35 pages, PDF (September 2016)
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