"The WinnerS Take It All"
With ABBA apparently contemplating a ground breaking ‘virtual’ comeback concert in 2022, perhaps they should be considering an adjustment to their popular rallying cry in light of events surrounding the Women’s US Open Tennis Final last weekend.
The decision by the broadcast rights holders Amazon Prime to share live coverage of the Women’s Final from Flushing Meadows between eighteen year old British player Emma Raducanu and nineteen year old Canadian Leylah Fernandez with UK terrestrial broadcaster Channel 4 has certainly generated more than one winner.
The quality of the match and the wider access to viewers resulting from the shared rights arrangements in the UK, has ignited a wave of positivity towards the Amazon Prime, Channel 4, both players, the sport of tennis and women’s sport more generally, as well as providing incredible exposure for sponsors, brands and suppliers associated with the players and the US Open tournament.
In a sports setting, it is most unusual to see so many winners arising out of a decision by a rights holder to share rights. That said, aside perhaps from the BBC, who reportedly withdrew from their initial plan to show highlights on the day after the final as a result of the shared live rights arrangement put in place just before the match, and the valiant on court loser Fernandez, all other parties have benefitted from the decision.
Previous Instances of Shared Coverage
In many respects the scenario is similar to Sky allowing for the terrestrial broadcast of the Cricket World Cup Final in 2019 in which England secured an unlikely and nail-biting victory against New Zealand. That result boosted cricket in the UK with the viewing figures for terrestrial coverage vastly exceeding those that would have seen the event on a purely subscription platform.
For the Final in New York, the numbers in the UK are staggering. The shared rights arrangement for Raducanu’s enthralling victory delivered a peak audience on Channel 4 of 9.2 million viewers. Significantly, according to Channel 4 reports, this amounted to a 39.9% share of the total audience and incredibly 48% of 16 – 34 year olds, excluding those who elected to watch on Amazon Prime.
Understandably, Channel 4 were delighted by their coup with Ian Katz, Channel 4 chief content officer, commenting: “We’re so delighted that Channel 4, in partnership with Prime Video, could enable more than 9m people to enjoy one of the most thrilling and historic nights of British sport in a generation.”
“Moments like this are what Channel 4 was made for – it’s a perfect example of the kind of nimble, uncommercial, but profoundly valuable public service broadcasting that a purpose-driven Channel 4 can deliver.”
A Timely Boost
For Channel 4 this was a timely boost, illustrating the value of a public broadcaster mentality at a time of genuine national interest in a sporting event. It will no doubt be seen as helpful in the on-going privatisation debate and it was notable that now former Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden congratulated Channel 4 and Amazon for agreeing to share coverage of the Final.
From an Amazon Prime perspective, whilst they may have lost some viewers from their own platform for the Final as a result of the deal, there were other benefits to compensate. First, the arrangement has been received positively in the UK by allowing a major groundbreaking victory by Raducanu to be seen free of charge by a mass audience. This promotes goodwill and trust around the Amazon Prime brand. Yet, this was not a purely altruistic move.
In addition to the rights fee secured, Amazon Prime enjoyed almost total exclusivity as a result of Channel 4 using the Amazon feed incorporating a prominent Prime Video logo on-screen. Moreover, the only adverts during a lengthy broadcast slot of over three hours were promotions for Prime’s entertainment shows. This represented a perfect opportunity to promote Amazon’s exclusive tennis coverage and other shows to a captive audience peaking at 9.2 million viewers.
Public Interest Moments in Sport
The cricket and tennis examples of sharing live rights highlight the need for both rights owners and holders to be increasingly aware of public interest moments arising in sports settings where legislation on listed events plays no role and ensure that appropriate flexibility exists within contractual arrangements to allow for the sharing of rights on appropriate terms and potentially at very short notice as a sporting narrative unfolds.
Agility on the part of terrestrial broadcast partners who may wish to share the live rights will be essential as will be the need to make quick calls on rights fees and advertising opportunities. In this instance, Channel 4 were praised by Amazon Prime for their approach, illustrating the importance of creating good working relationships in achieving accelerated broadcast solutions.
As for the other winners emerging out of the shared live rights arrangements, well Raducanu’s epic victory on terrestrial television has supercharged her marketability and generated unprecedented national and international attention. Already pundits are seeking to put a value on her lifetime on and off court earnings with some talking in the billions of dollars. This is clearly premature, but there is no doubt that the decision by Amazon to share the Final with Channel 4 has helped to cement Raducanu’s marketability, established her as global superstar, thrilled her existing sponsors and opened the eyes of many more potential commercial partners.
The sport of tennis is also a winner. Both competitors in the Final are incredible players, fantastic role models and will surely be an inspiration for many youngsters whether they play tennis or not. The quality of the match was another reaffirmation of the strength of women’s sport in general and will hopefully encourage more girls/women to take up tennis and other sports across the spectrum.
As acknowledged by Amazon, the decision to make the match available to a free to air broadcast partner was ‘counter-commercial’, but having recognised the national moment that the Final represented they made the big call which was duly answered by Channel 4. Both deserve credit. They have facilitated a feel good factor around the players, the sport of tennis, showcased two amazing role models to a huge and young audience in the UK.
Which just goes to show that sometimes it is winners from across the sports process and not just the winner in the sporting arena which can truly take it all…..ABBA please note…..
ESG in Sport – net zero targets and “coolerplate” clauses
Property Patter: Dealing with Sporting Rights over Land
Sporting rights can cause issues particularly if they are granted over land which may be developed in the future.
Emma Raducanu - "Serving to Unite the Nation" - The Future Protection of Sporting Events of National Interest
Keep Your Enemies Close – Multi-Club Ownership in UEFA Competition
Nick White writes for City AM on how City Football Group's multiple ownership model might give Man City an edge in the transfer market post-Brexit
Could a multiple ownership model give clubs an edge in the transfer market post-Brexit?
Nick White writes for Intellectual Property Magazine on the ever-expanding role of licensed content within the video gaming industry
Darren Bailey quoted by City AM on why a salary cap is unlikely to succeed where Financial Fair Play failed in making European football more competitive
The solution to football’s problems may require more fundamental change.
Richard Davies quoted by eprivateclient on tattoos and their licensing for high profile private clients
Private clients and advisers have many things to think about but one thing that’s unlikely to make the list is tattoos.
TOKYO 2020 AND BEYOND - IT'S GOOD TO TALK, BUT IT IS TIME FOR POSITIVE ACTION ON MENTAL HEALTH
Darren Bailey quoted in The Times on the risk of litigation for international sporting bodies over the inclusion of transgender athletes
Laurel Hubbard's inclusion in the female competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo may provoke legal challenges.
"Game changing" for the beautiful game
Nic Couchman writes for Sport Business on the evolution of sport as an investment asset class
Nic examines the ways sports rights-holders work with private equity houses and the key features of successful partnerships.
Nick White quoted by the Financial Times on the Japanese government’s determination to press ahead with the Tokyo Olympics
While the organisers have no contractual rights to cancel, the IOC would have little recourse if Japan closed its borders.
Darren Bailey quoted by Citywire on the unseen battle between the American and European models of sport
Fans and regulators are paying more attention to how clubs and competitions are financed at a time when sports need capital.
Pfizer, Ted Danson and the Olympic Vaccine Solution
Darren Bailey quoted extensively on the legalities of the European Super League proposals
Darren considers the legal questions that exist around the introduction of a European Super League.
Darren Bailey quoted by the Financial Times on the regulation of the sports betting industry
As the UK moves to a more regulated model, the US is throwing open the doors on the regulation of the sports betting industry.
COVID-19 Certification: Why do the Sport and Retail sectors disagree?
Darren Bailey quoted by SportsPro on the UK government’s ongoing review of gambling sponsorship
A new code of conduct for betting firms rather than an outright ban on sports sponsorship is the likely way forward.
Transfer of Power: Brexit and the Football Transfer Market
Nowhere in football will the effect of Brexit more keenly be felt than in the transfer market.