National Multi-Sport Networks
Chapter 3, “National Multi-Sport Networks,” documents the transfer of sports rights from one national network to another, with attention to how such changes impacted on the fortunes of the corporations that housed them. The analysis focuses on professional team sports in the United States, baseball, basketball, football, and hockey, as well as college football. There is an important connection among the four professional sports, as they received limited antitrust protection to sell television rights in the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. That act protected college football from competition from the NFL on Saturdays in the fall, but the absence of the NCAA in that legislation led to a court decision in 1983, Board of Regents v. NCAA, which revolutionized how that sport was televised. The rights to those leagues and conferences are now sold for billions of dollars, with a migration from broadcast to cable in many cases. Those rights fees, moreover, drove dramatic increases in the revenue broadcasters generate through retransmission agreements and the rates cable programming services charge per household per month. Both those elements, moreover, result from government action or inaction, from passage of the 1992 Cable Act in the former and the failure to pass à la carte legislation in the latter.