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Game On: Licensing Sports Content For Video Games

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Thursday, 11 May 2023 By Jonty Cowan

The way consumers engage with and consume entertainment content is constantly shifting, with recent trends showing a desire for more immersive, personalised experiences which can be accessed across multiple channels and multiple screens[1]. Whilst the sports industry is still adapting to these engagement trends, the video games industry is ideally placed to deliver these experiences.

The video games industry is now the biggest entertainment industry. In 2022, it saw global revenue of approx. $184B[2], which was more than the film and music industries combined[3], and attracted 3 billion gamers to engage with their products. Game development is no longer the reserve of large, multi-national publishers, with small developers now able to develop and publish games to global audiences[4], which has increased the number of games published each year. It is therefore no surprise that more sports are working with an ever-growing number of video game companies as part of their consumer engagement strategy. Alongside licensing sports content for use in authentic sports titles (such as NBA 2K, WWE 2K and FIFA) and non-sports titles (such as Fortnite[5] or Rocket League[6]), esports events are opening up new opportunities for sports (such as eSail GP[7], the F1 Esports Series[8] or the Zwift Esports World Championships[9]). With the rise of web3 and metaverse experiences[10], and the increase in transmedia projects, the number of licensing opportunities for sports organisations will only increase in the coming years[11].

Whilst the sports industry has been licensing rights for years, there are some important nuances to licensing rights for video games. This article examines some of the key issues sports licensors and video game developers should consider when negotiating sports content licences for video games:

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Jonty Cowan

Jonty Cowan

Jonty is a Legal Director at Wiggin.  He has over 15 years’ experience advising on a range of issues affecting the computer games industry.

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