Circumvention, Media Sport and the Fragmentation of Video Culture

Institute of Network Cultures
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Geoblocking and Global Video Culture, 2016, pp. 74 - 85
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Lurid tales of football officials pocketing millions hit the headlines following the recent FIFA scandals. The reporting rightly shone a light on corruption in football, but also drove home a basic fact: sport is awash with money. This is largely because television networks spend a significant amount on purchasing rights to major sporting events. To provide a few brief examples, Fox Sports has paid over $400 million (USD) in 2011 for the rights to the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups1 and NBC has paid $7.65 billion (USD) for the right to broadcast the Olympics from 2022 to 2032 in the U.S.2 These sums are so large that nowadays professional sporting clubs at the highest level earn the bulk of their income from the influx of money earned from the sale of broadcasting rights, rather than from gate receipts or merchandising. Sport is able to demand this level of investment because there is a strong viewer preference for mediated live sport, which in turn is a unique form of modern screen content. Live sport is one of the last program genres that require people to watch it at a particular time. This is unlike most other programs, which can be provided on-demand (as we have seen elsewhere in this collection). This in turn means that live sport stands as a reasonable financial investment for media companies. By purchasing exclusive rights to popular sporting contests, networks will have access to an interested audience, which can be on sold to advertisers. Rights deals between sporting organisations and television networks are managed through a complicated geography of contractual agreements. Sporting organisations maximize their income by selling limited exclusive rights to networks, allowing them to sell the same content to multiple national markets. For example, the aforementioned $400 million World Cup deal made in the United States of America, sits alongside other deals FIFA makes with broadcasters in Australia, India and so on. This relationship provides benefits for both parties. Sport offers television networks compelling content that can help build a loyal audience and rights deals stand as a direct source of revenue for sporting organisations as well as a marketing and public relations outlet.
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