If Paul Revere were alive today and a soccer fan, he would be far less concerned about a British invasion and much more in tune with recent rights negotiations in faraway Qatar.
For decades, the U.S.-led media world assumed that no true global competitor matched the sheer power and marketing largesse of domestic networks and cable systems. The one-two punch of investment capital and distribution managed to keep the Tea Party of rights negotiators contained in one powder room.
Then along came a spider called the World Wide Web, and slowly, but surely, over-the-top (OTT) offerings for national treasures like the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship began showing up on iPhones, Droids, desktops, laptops and lots of other devices not wired to your rooftop or manifesting in a monthly bill. Suddenly, one thin slice of Americans realized that there was indeed life after television.
In and of itself, this tale spins a compelling novella, but as we turn the page from 2011 to chapter 2012, a plot twist emerged that would make even Mark Burnett blush with surprise.
Just this week, Qatar broadcaster Al Jazeera wrested control of some of the most prized broadcast rights in global soccer, and not only for its home turf. You can now find professional matches in France and Spanish-league games in the good ol’ US of A exclusively on Al Jazeera satellite and cable channels. Is the next stop on the rights acquisition freight train our homegrown pride and joy, the World Wide Web?
When a Middle Eastern broadcaster scoops up TV distribution rights in Europe and the United States reminiscent of domestic cable’s expansion back in the roaring ’80s, what will that mean for the future of sports content on the Web and the advertiser-financed efforts to build a global MSO? Could a single online entity ever manage to cut Commissioner Roger Goodell a check for the global rights to webcast every second of every NFL game for the next decade? Maybe that’s the game-changer we've all been waiting to tweet.
The world is getting smaller, and the Web is feverishly fueling the consolidation of rights while users are demanding a more efficient curator for their beloved online content.
For my money, three simple words will always ring true: Content is king. Don't get me wrong: Capital and distribution are still firmly seated beside the royal family, but what you say will be forever more important than where you choose to say it, or maybe even where you play it.
For sports publishers big and small spanning the globe, an amazing opportunity stands tall on the horizon as never before because, indeed, there are Yankees fans in Bangladesh drinking Coke and Bengals fans in Taipei eating Snickers. And tomorrow's UFC fans in Brazil just might be the guys cheering the loudest at an NBA All-Star Game while holding an ice-cold Bud Light Platinum
Maybe it’s just coincidence since the XXX Olympiad beckons this summer, but the biggest brands in the United States seem poised to make a quantum leap in the months ahead. Publishers need stand ready with an expansive menu of content to serve a global community on the only truly “global” medium.
We make no prediction about the language or characters that will tell the story itself, but 23 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall it sure feels like lots of walled gardens are cracking beneath the increasing pressure of three little letters, w-w-w.