Audiovisual rights in sports events: An EU perspective

02-03-2017

Premium live sports content attracts large audiences, drives TV subscriptions upwards and generates advertising for broadcasters, particularly in an increasingly diversified media landscape. With no foreseeable end to the rush for premium sports rights over a handful of major sports events, the dramatic intensification of competition in the past 20 years has led to a steep increase in the pricing levels of audiovisual rights. In 2009, EU broadcasters spent around €5.8 billion on the acquisition of rights, representing nearly 17 % of their total €34.5 billion programming spend. Although sports events do not qualify as works of authorship, the audiovisual recordings of such events enjoy copyright protection and entitle rights-holders of the first fixation of the event to the right of reproduction, distribution, rental and communication to the public. In this context, the regulatory framework under which audiovisual sports rights agreements are negotiated in the EU features two predominant models – the joint selling of rights, where rights are sold by specially created associations on behalf of sports clubs, and exclusivity – a model referring to territorial exclusivity over the exploitation of audiovisual rights. In spite of the prominence of the latter model, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive contains two provisions that curb the restrictive allocation of rights, making it possible to freely receive information about events of major importance for society and enabling the public to have access to short extracts within general news programmes. The ongoing revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive does not currently envisage any changes to these provisions.

Premium live sports content attracts large audiences, drives TV subscriptions upwards and generates advertising for broadcasters, particularly in an increasingly diversified media landscape. With no foreseeable end to the rush for premium sports rights over a handful of major sports events, the dramatic intensification of competition in the past 20 years has led to a steep increase in the pricing levels of audiovisual rights. In 2009, EU broadcasters spent around €5.8 billion on the acquisition of rights, representing nearly 17 % of their total €34.5 billion programming spend. Although sports events do not qualify as works of authorship, the audiovisual recordings of such events enjoy copyright protection and entitle rights-holders of the first fixation of the event to the right of reproduction, distribution, rental and communication to the public. In this context, the regulatory framework under which audiovisual sports rights agreements are negotiated in the EU features two predominant models – the joint selling of rights, where rights are sold by specially created associations on behalf of sports clubs, and exclusivity – a model referring to territorial exclusivity over the exploitation of audiovisual rights. In spite of the prominence of the latter model, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive contains two provisions that curb the restrictive allocation of rights, making it possible to freely receive information about events of major importance for society and enabling the public to have access to short extracts within general news programmes. The ongoing revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive does not currently envisage any changes to these provisions.