Be a Sport..

Copyright related controversy has dogged the Super Bowl for the last two years as the NFL has tried to strictly enforce a ban on public exhibitions of its games on TV sets or screens larger than 55 inches because smaller sets limit the audience size. However the section of federal copyright law giving the NFL protection over the content of its programming makes an exemption for sports bars. This has created a furor amongst American churches which had created a custom out of the viewing experience.
The law is undoubtedly a little outmoded. Firstly it has become quite easy to pick up a television with a screen larger than 55 inches these days so the link between screen and audience size maybe more tenuous these days. Secondly, to exempt sports bars which will benefit commercially from the broadcast of the Super Bowl and to prohibit churches trying to reach a younger audience doesn’t make a lot of sense for the NFL. Thirdly, the purpose of this rule is to protect TV Ratings which may come down if there are fewer sets tuned in but isn’t this a mere technicality? The same number of people will watch the show and see the advertisements so the impact will be the same whether it is 50 people watching together or 10 groups of 5 people watching separately.
Finally, I think it would be counterproductive for the NFL to insist on the enforcement of this rule without providing for some kind of licensing so that people may at least take permission and watch the NFL on large screens. Sports are meant to be fun and if you work so hard to restrict that then fewer people are going to watch. The goal of the NFL shouldn’t be to increase the number of TV sets tuned into the game but to increase the number of people that watch – as more watch more TV sets will naturally tune themselves in.
This reminds me of my argument against ambush marketing laws – a subject relevant to us as India will have to frame them for the Commonwealth Games. Ambush marketing can be potentially catastrophic for brands as they pay so much money for the sponsorship rights of an event. Instead why not let brand names hedge their bets and allow many people licensing and sponsorship opportunities. That way you have more brands, more advertisements, more hype and probably more awareness of the event. The brands stand to lose less in case their ad campaign doesn’t take off as they would only be one amongst many sponsors. The consumer would be more tempted to make purchases and attend / watch the event as there will be more promotion as each sponsor propagates the cause of the event and in the long run the event becomes more watched and more economically valuable.
This argument is buttressed by the direct link between sports and brand promotion. So if you think about it for most sporting events instead of having one big brand calling itself the official sponsor and plastering its logo everywhere you could have four of the biggest doing the same. The impact would be greater and even those who don’t watch would be intrigued. This way there might be less risk and more gain for all concerned.


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