On Friday, November 11th the Brooklyn Entertainment and Sports Law Society and the Intellectual Property Law Association hosted the second annual Brooklyn Law School Sports Law Symposium. The symposium theme was “Sports Intellectual Property in a Time of Disruption” and had many students, faculty, practitioners, family and friends in attendance. The event was a great success and BESLS and IPLA are already excited for next year!
The third panel of the day, “The Future of Sports Broadcasting,” provided insight into streaming services, creative development, and broadcast licensing. Anthony Iliakostas (Manager of ABC News Rights and Clearances; Adjunct Professor at New York Law School) moderated the panel and was joined by Michelle Torres (Senior Counsel at NBC Sports), Bretta Oluyede (Counsel at Youtube), and Laurie Curnes (Senior Director in ESPN’s corporate strategy group).
The panel was kicked off with a general discussion on the business of sports content licensing, and Anthony highlighted consumer frustrations with blackouts and geographical limitations. Despite the clear frustration and harm to consumers, the panelists articulated how such constraints are vital for content quality and the industry’s survival. Without blackouts, exclusive licenses, and geographical limitations, the networks and streaming services would not be able to extract the necessary advertising revenue to keep producing and purchasing high-quality content for consumers.
Next, the panelists discussed the relationship between sports leagues, production companies, and broadcast networks. Since leagues own the copyright to essential footage but lack the production and broadcasting capabilities, they need production and networks to further their product. Overall, networks need the league’s intellectual property, and the leagues need the producer’s expertise and the network’s content outlet. This working, mutually beneficial relationship is the behind-the-scenes to the many sports documentaries we are seeing today.
Lastly, the panel concluded with a discussion on the evolution of the sports broadcasting industry. While the industry and content licensing are still dominated by rights to game broadcasts (NFL Sunday, NBA on TNT, College Gameday, etc.), there has been an increase in alternative forms of sports television entertainment. From Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” to HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” fans and networks are not just seeking the games being played. Such unique broadcasts provide leagues and teams with increased revenue stemming from their intellectual property. Further, networks and streaming services no longer need to rely on live game rights as their sole sports content. This evolving industry has provided new forms of business for leagues, teams, networks and streaming services, and new forms of entertainment for sports fans.
BESLS, IPLA, and everyone in attendance would like to thank the panelists and moderator for an insightful conversation on the world of sports broadcasting.
Written by: Daniel Erber
Daniel is a 2023 J.D. Candidate at Brooklyn Law School