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Protecting the Value of TV and Radio Rights in Sports

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Remember when a press conference or a news clip was just that .... News? Back in the era of three channels of black and white televisions, times were much simpler.

A simpler time... for television rights at least!
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In today's age of media coverage, those same three or four local channels still battle fiercely for coverage but they are now battling sports talk radio, internet message boards, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and 24 hour cable sports channels. With the dramatic rise in coverage, so too has been the rise of broadcast and content rights issues.

In today's media world, the media outlet is paying for the right to be the exclusive provider of a particular category of content. For example, the SEC has sold its television game broadcast rights to CBS and ESPN collectively. At South Carolina we have sold our radio game broadcast rights to WNKT 107.5 FM The Game. With the sale of those rights comes the subsequent protection of those rights. However, the policies and agreements put in to place are not intended to diminish editorial coverage but rather protect the commercial value of the asset.

Let's look at a few examples.

Example #1 Football Game on ESPN

South Carolina is playing Team B at 7:15 PM on ESPN. First of all, since CBS has the priority in the SEC pecking order, ESPN can only begin their broadcast once the exclusive CBS window is closed at 7 PM ET. The CBS exclusive window is not only great exposure for the premier SEC game of the week, it also fetches a much higher monetary value. 

Fast forward to the end of the game. Alshon Jeffery caught a game-winning touchdown pass from Connor Shaw after a five minute 4th quarter drive. While local TV stations and websites can post the highlights from footage they captured from the game, they are required to use no more than three minutes of clips and they may not use the broadcast footage. Therefore if the local website wanted to post video he/she recorded from the ESPN broadcast of the entire final five minute drive, they would be in violation of the SEC's and ESPN's rights.

As you can see, within these media agreements the press is able to report and cover the game and sport, but there is a fine line between reporting the news and capitalizing on content owned by someone else.

Example #2 Coach Appearance on Local Radio

At the University of South Carolina, we have sold our radio broadcast rights to WNKT 107.5 The Game. Not only does The Game have the exclusive rights to broadcast our games on the radio, but they also carry our coach's call-in shows. Protecting the call-in shows can sometimes become problematic.
For example, if a local radio show requests a head coach to come on their show and discuss his/her recent success, the coach can agree but he/she can only be on for five minutes. Due to our contractual arrangement a coach may not regularly participate in another radio show as the primary feature of that show for a period longer than five minutes.

The contract exists to protect the rightsholder. If a competitor to the Flagship station were to be able to have a particular coach on their show regularly for an extended period of time, the value of the coach's call-in show would be significantly reduced.

These examples are intended to shed a little light on the complicated world of managing media and broadcast rights. As the pressure to compete increases around the nation, all schools must maximize the value of their assets and make wise business decisions.

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