‘Where’s there’s passion, there’s profit’: Media rights and sports

As the UEFA Champions League kicks into full swing for 2015/16, live coverage in the UK can only be found on BT. Having paid £897m for exclusive live UK coverage for 3 years it is just another reminder of the value of football rights to media companies. UEFA, the governing body of European football secures 80% of its revenue from the sale of media rights to all its competitions (with the Champions League alone worth well over a £1billion a season), so policing the copyright value of these rights is a major concern for rights holders.
New academic research, presented at the European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP 2015) conference in Glasgow, organized by CREATe (Research Councils UK Copyright Centre), examines the position and role of copyright in the European context and explores the existing business models for both football rights holders and digital organisations in an area that has seen growing interest and market intervention from the European Commission and European courts.The study, by Professor Raymond Boyle, found that depending on the particular sport and its specific value in particular markets; the level of direct concern around copyright infringement will vary considerably. So for example the English Premier League views almost all the commercial value of its rights in its ‘live coverage’, rather than say highlights and thus takes copyright infringement very seriously.
It can often appear that debate about the copyright regime is crudely distilled as to appear that on one side of the argument are those calling for increased liberalisation particularly curators and aggregators of content – and at the other end of the spectrum those calling for more rigorous policing of the regime are organisations that represent content producers. This research argues that this polarised critique masks a myriad of more complex and nuanced aspects of the position of IP within the sports rights arena.

The study published in the journal Media, Culture and Society argues that one of the key issues to emerge from this research is that the position you occupy as an media or football organization within the value chain attached to football rights helps shape your attitude to the broader regulatory framework.

Does the policing of copyright block innovation in the sports media market by restricting access to content? This research found that for content producers the issue of copyright is often less of a blockage to innovation (particularly in mobile apps) than the rigorous implementation of competition law in regulating and opening certain digital markets. However this can vary from market to market.

Blockages to scaling sports content companies over the years have included; a less than robust digital infrastructure (no longer a significant issue); developing a unsustainable business model (always a challenge but with advertising models once again back in vogue thanks in part to increased user numbers doable) and accessing rights to content (happening more through partnerships). Access to finance for sports content new start companies is seen by many as the key blockage, not the copyright regime.

The core of the value of sports such as football is the centrality of the live event that is what media companies want to pay for. It is this fixation with ‘liveness’ this shapes the sports market and its characteristics and in the mobile digital age this is is not going to change anytime soon.


Notes for editors: ‘Copyright, Football and European Media Rights’ by Raymond Boyle is a paper presented at the European Policy for Intellectual Property (EPIP) Conference, University of Glasgow, 2-3 September 2015.  For more information visit: http://www.epip2015.org/

Raymond Boyle is Professor of Communications at the Centre for Cultural Policy Research at the University of Glasgow.

For further information contact the study academic Raymond Boyle (email: Raymond.boyle@glasgow.ac.uk) or the CREATe PR team (email: contact@create.ac.uk)

New research presented at the EPIP 2015 conference will be shared on social media using the hashtag #epip2015