The evolution of digital media strategies in Major League sports and the legal issues they raise
On September 27, 2018, NBA Digital, the digital arm of the National Basketball Association (NBA), announced1 that fans would be able to purchase the fourth (4th) quarter of live, out-of-market NBA regular season games for $1.99, through NBA League Pass, the league’s digital streaming package. The NBA, through a partnership with Turner Broadcasting’s B/R Live streaming service, as well as NBA.com and the NBA mobile app, is allowing fans the opportunity for the first time to purchase the fourth (4th) quarter of a single game on NBA League Pass, from the end of the third (3rd) quarter until the conclusion of the respective game.
The NBA is the first of the four major US professional sports leagues (Major League Baseball (MLB), the NBA, the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL)) to allow fans to purchase a portion of an in-progress regular season game to watch on their computer or mobile device, although it follows similar innovations made in the over-the-top (OTT) market by the NFL.2
This article examines the NBA’s announcement and the wider evolution of digital media rights’ strategies in US Major League sports (especially in the NFL), before identifying some of the key legal issues that lawyers are dealing with.
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- Tags: Broadcasting | Commercial | Major League Baseball (MLB) | Major League Sports | Media Rights | National Basketball Association (NBA) | National Football League (NFL) | National Hockey League (NHL) | United States of America (USA)
Rich Brand is the Managing Partner of the San Francisco Office of Arent Fox LLP, and the Chair of the Sports Practice Group. Rich's sports law practice focuses on naming rights, sponsorships, media rights, acquisitions of professional sports franchises, arena/stadium licenses, executive contracts, concession agreements, suite and club seat licenses, and financings for teams and facilities. Rich has represented numerous professional teams, including the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, DC United, Inter Milan, Los Angeles Galaxy, Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Rams, Madison Square Garden Company (the owner of the New York Knicks and New York Rangers), Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, New York Jets, Oklahoma Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Capitals, and the Washington Wizards. Recent examples of Rich's experience include representing the University of Southern California and Fox Sports in a naming rights transaction with United Airlines, the Seattle Seahawks in a naming rights transaction with CenturyLink, the Miami Dolphins in a stadium naming rights transaction with Hard Rock, the Los Angeles Lakers in a naming rights and health provider rights deal with UCLA Health, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment in an arena naming rights transaction with New York Community Bank, Inova Health System in a training center naming rights transaction with the Washington Redskins, and the Brooklyn Nets in a media rights agreement with YES Network. In one of the more prominent recent non-sports naming rights agreements, Rich represented the Transbay Joint Powers Authority in San Francisco in a transit center naming rights transaction with Salesforce.
Jennifer O’Sullivan is a partner in Arent Fox’s Sports group where she serves as a trusted advisor to sports leagues, teams, and media and technology companies. She specializes in the representation of professional sports leagues, teams, media and technology companies, investors, promoters, hospitality companies and sports, entertainment, and lifestyle agencies. Jennifer counsels sports and entertainment clients on issues ranging from mergers and acquisitions and other transactions to sponsorships, advertising, media matters, league formations and restructurings, and all forms of commercial agreements, including licensing, merchandising and promotional agreements, venue, vendor, and other special events agreements.
Associate - Arent Fox (Los Angeles)
Justin is an Associate in the Los Angeles office, where he works in the Corporate & Securities group.