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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Selected Laws Governing the Broadcast of Professional Sporting Events

Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney

Brian T. Yeh
Legislative Attorney

Professional sports are a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. One of the biggest ways that professional sports organizations like the National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB) generate revenue is through licensing the rights to telecast (or, more colloquially, broadcast) their games to the public. These broadcasts may occur on over-the-air broadcast stations or over cable or satellite systems, and, now, over the Internet.

The licensing rights for the telecast of professional sports programming are treated in a somewhat unique way under federal law. There are special provisions that apply only to sports programming that exist in order to support a number of policy goals. Some of these goals include ensuring the availability of the games of local teams to local audiences and preserving the competitive nature of professional sports leagues. However, these statutory and regulatory provisions come under fire occasionally. They are cited as the cause for certain games being “blacked out” (meaning unable to be broadcast to the public) in some areas of the country when certain conditions are met. They are also cited as a reason that licensing professional sports programming has become so expensive that it may be partially responsible for the rising prices of cable and satellite bills. This report will discuss some of the important federal provisions that specifically affect the telecasting of professional sporting events.

Date of Report: August 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 13
Order Number: R43096
Price: $29.95

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