Does The Rise Of The Internet Mean Less Network Sports Coverage?

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Andrew Tyndall argues that there "is a subtle, but significant shift, in the networks' news agenda as they make the transition from pure television broadcasters to multi-platform providers of video news."

Networks, he notes, often don't put news packages about sports and show business online. The reason? Potential copyrights issues. Since the rights to show, say, an a baseball game on television don't automatically transfer to the Internet, sports stories are often withheld from network Web sites for legal reasons.

Tyndall suggests that this means there will be fewer sports and showbiz stories as the news continues to shift online. I'm skeptical of that argument: It seems more likely that news outlets (and their lawyers) will simply learn how to better negotiate the still-murky waters of Internet copyright. Sports and showbiz are just too popular for news networks to abandon simply because they haven't bothered to craft agreements that allow usage across different platforms.

Lost Remote's Steve Safran argues that networks may, at the moment, be being overly cautious, and suggests that "fair use" rules could apply when it comes to putting this sort of content on the Web. But Safran acknowledges that the networks' reticence to do so is understandable, since sports organizations are notoriously strict when it comes to their copyrights. (Remember the evil college baseball blogger?)

"You can bet any use of sports video, even in a news story, would result in a cease-and-desist letter, followed by more back-and-forth letters and lawsuit threats," writes Safran. "Who needs that? The risk adds up to the potential for networks losing real money, and they are understandably shy about getting into expensive fights these days."

In time, the sports leagues may start to see that the exposure they can get online means an opportunity to expand their brand. But in the interim, we'll likely be stuck in this sports/showbiz legalistic purgatory.