SBD/January 15, 2014/Colleges

O'Bannon Lawsuit: Ed Desser Says College Telecasts More Commercialized Than NBA, NFL

In a report filed this week on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA, Desser Sports Media President Ed Desser wrote that NCAA men's basketball and football telecasts are "actually more commercialized than professional NBA and NFL telecasts," according to Jon Solomon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. Desser wrote that college sports broadcasts "promote universities, resulting in more student applications and higher tuition to be charged; regular-season football telecasts lead to appearances in sponsor-named bowls; and telecasts motivate alumni to offer financial support, such as donations and purchasing luxury boxes." He wrote college sports telecasts are essentially "infomercials under the guise of entertainment, given the massive machines they represent. No wonder so many conferences have already, or are planning, their own dedicated TV networks." Desser notes that he "got paid $10,000 a day for his work with the plaintiffs." NCAA Exec VP & General Counsel Donald Remy in a statement said that "no court has ever accepted the plaintiffs' theory that participants in a televised sporting event may claim a share of broadcast revenue simply for names and faces appearing on camera." Remy said, "Last fall, the Court made clear that plaintiffs' claim can only survive if they produced evidence that such broadcasts are 'commercial,' that is, that they are product advertising." Solomon notes Desser's report "attempts to make the O'Bannon plaintiffs' case." While Desser notes there are "newsworthy aspects to games ... he says there are significant differences between news and sports programs." Desser writes that the combination of a "planned schedule, staged presentation, known location, consistent game length, exclusivity, charged admission, and rights fee payments render sports events non-news." Desser's report "goes to great lengths to detail the commercialization of college sports broadcasts" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 1/15).

COURT REPORT: CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Singer noted the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday "levied its latest decision in the on-going 'player likeness' suit, denying the NCAA the right to intervene in settlement talks between former college athletes and EA Sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company." The athletes, led by former Arizona State Univ. QB Sam Keller, "sued the NCAA, EA Sports as well as the CLC for using and profiting from their images." A federal appeals court "sided with the plaintiffs and then EA Sports attempted to appeal with the Supreme Court." Ultimately, EA Sports and the CLC "settled, essentially leaving the NCAA peeved and out of the discussion" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/14).
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