Saturday, October 24, 2009

NFL Fights Over Access To College Game Day Content

The NFL is currently in a standoff with the company that video records college football games for eight conferences and then delivers it digitally to the NFL. The content is primarily utilized by the NFL's College Advisory Committee to form an official opinion on college juniors who are thinking about entering the NFL draft before their college eligibility is exhausted. The College Advisory Committee acts as another source for potential early entrants to the NFL draft because without this committee prospects would only be able to obtain information about their possible draft prospects from sports agents and their college football coaches.

The company that creates the content and then delivers it to the NFL, XOS Technologies, has reportedly made a mulit-million dollar rights fee request on behalf of the college football conferences it works with to the NFL for content that was previously delivered free. The College Advisory Committee is made up of participants from each NFL team and it provides a draft opinion of college underclassmen. This arrangement has provided college juniors an opinion that is not biased by the opposing interests that sports agents and college coaches inherently possess. The analysis that the College Advisory Committee provides is mutually beneficially to both the NFL and to underclassmen. Potential draft prospects are able to obtain a professional opinion about their readiness for the NFL while the NFL has been able to scout potential draft picks with free access to game day tapes.

From a legal and business perspective, there are several issues that need to be determined. What is the monetary value of the game tapes to the NFL? Who owns the rights to these game day tapes? Does the conference own the game day content or do the two schools who play the game own the rights? If the content is used for purposes other than talent evaluation, such as for entertainment or analysis on the NFL Network, what is the value of this use? If a college underclassman would like to obtain the game day tapes and post clips on a social media website to promote himself can the player also obtain the rights for this use? How much is the College Advisory Committee's talent evaluation services worth to college football programs and their players?

These questions need to be answered sooner rather than later because there is a high probability that a larger number of juniors than usual will declare themselves available for the upcoming NFL draft due to the possibility that a new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement that is in the initial stages of negotiation may put some type of cap on rookie salaries.

In my opinion, the NFL should pay some type of fee for the game day tapes depending on the type of rights that are granted. Since NFL teams pay tens of millions of dollars to top draft picks, game day tapes are very valuable in the evaluation process. I do not believe it would be practical to charge potential draftees for an independent evaluation because most likely they could not afford the cost of the review. However, I think some type of deal should be worked out that would allow a player to obtain game day content that would allow them to directly promote themselves on social media websites.

Copyright 2009 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.