Saturday, September 3, 2011

The freeloading problem on television and sports

A news commentator recently warned we are fast becoming a nation of freeloaders. Nowhere is it worse than on mass media, especially television.

As pay television consistently has outbid broadcast networks for sporting events, people are growing tired of the high per-subscriber rates for these channels used to pay for these rights fees, and these fees have become the source for advantages of pay-television over networks to the point some sports (boxing) have lost appeal with Middle America because of the pay-television exclusivity of the sport, while mixed martial arts has had a light broadcast network following, with a new Fox television contract coming this fall.

A recent report that News Corp had announced a minimum eight-day delay between the broadcast of any programme on the Fox broadcast network and the time they will stream the show on an online streaming service irked many such "freeloaders," who have been cord-cutting and watch (mostly) SD programming on their HDTV's, and prefer the convenience of a 15.4" screen over the 32" (or larger) high-definition televisions. The freeloaders feel they can watch any show, any time, even if it's illegal, and violate copyright infringement. They do not respect the staff involved in the production of a television programme, and the affiliates of the network involved, as affiliates have to pay numerous fees, and sell advertising to local merchants, with the popular programmes resulting in high 30-second rates that can be charged, which can be influential when the programme is the lead-in to the local late newscast that offers local teams' sports scores. They also disrespect copyright law to have their way. Some (especially the Chinese) are known for copying television formats from the major international format holders and robbing them blind, and claim because it's from another country, US copyright laws do not matter (they do, Berne Convention).

These freeloaders would steal signals and illegally stream the shows are the types who would rob a health food store of its premium groceries, stealing it, and forcing the grocer to suffer a financial loss.

Let's suppose too a pharmaceutical company holds a patent for a wonderful medication, and they hold the patent. After millions of hours in research, they have perfected the perfect drug to cure a serious disease, and have obtained the patent. But before something can be done, a freeloader decides to break down the drug, illegally make copies of it when the patent is live, and give it free. The legitimate company has been greatly punished, but that is what freeloaders on television have done.

A group of sports fans have asked for the elimination of sports blackout rules, which are designed to protect a team's revenue stream by prohibiting the broadcast of a sporting event on television by television markets that may have any part within a 120km radius of the stadium if tickets are not sold out within 72 hours of the start of the event, an NFL rule written in 1973 to eliminate the total blackout rule that was in play regardless of sellout that prohibited a broadcast from reaching a home market. Once again, these "fans" are not fans, but want to betray teams and fans by stopping the incentive to sell tickets to fans. Blackouts are effective because it makes local fans buy tickets to events they want to attend, and by telling the television broadcaster no games are allowed on air within the 120km rule, it forces locals to buy tickets.

I've wondered in college sports, why is there no blackout rule when over 10,000 seats are still available and they still allow the game to be televised in the local market. It's a silly model since there is no incentive to be at the game when it's on air. The NFL's model has worked. Four teams have never had a blackout under current NFL rules (GB, WSH, DEN, PIT), two teams have never had a blackout in history (BAL first game 1996, HOU first game 2002), and another (TEN) has not had a blackout since being in their current home (the Titans' were in Memphis when they last had a blackout). Seventeen NFL teams have not had a blackout in the 21st century.

Freeloaders would want to steal television signals, and ban sports teams from imposing restrictions to encourage ticket sales. Isn't this the problem with society today, with welfare, freeloaders, and people who want something for nothing, and would discourage those who work the hardest to provide the wanted product? That's what we see with illegal streaming, stealing signals, not imposing blackout rules, and the like.
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