Public Knowledge Legal Director John Bergmayer will testify before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology this Wednesday, January 31 at 10:30 a.m. His testimony in the hearing on “TV Timeout: Understanding Sports Media Rights” will argue that both sports leagues and streaming services should put viewers first by avoiding unnecessary disruptions to how people watch games, by making taxpayer-funded sports available for free at least in their local markets, and by simplifying licensing so fans don’t need to subscribe to multiple services just to follow their favorite team.
The following is an excerpt from the testimony:
“Streaming video has benefited viewers in many ways, and the prevalence of cord-cutting backs that up. With online video, people can pick and choose services, instead of being forced into bloated cable bundles. When it comes to sports, streaming has brought benefits as well. It is easier for niche and smaller sports to reach fans online.
“But the transition to streaming hasn’t been entirely smooth. The proliferation of streaming services, and the fragmentation of content between them, means that costs of watching streaming video are rising. Some user experience problems with online video can [also] be quite pronounced with sports. Watching games now requires that a fan have a compatible device, a fast broadband connection, an account with each service, and the ability to download and configure an app for each service.
“Confusing and fan-hostile blackout rules mean that games available online in one market may not be available in another. Due to poor broadband or poor Wi-Fi in the home, video quality might be poor. Online sports streaming may also be significantly laggy. [T]his means that a viewer may find out what happens in a game on X (formerly Twitter) or Threads before seeing it on-screen. Fan frustration in this area is particularly acute because many games that were once available on free-over-the-air broadcast are moving to paid streaming services.
“Streaming is no longer an afterthought, and policymakers, content creators, tech platforms, and sports leagues need to take steps to ensure that shifts in the media, technology, and sports landscapes benefit viewers. Taxpayer-funded sports and teams should be required to commit to making games available free of charge… at least in their local market. Congress should [also] consider legislation like the ‘FANS Act’ [to] put public interest conditions on sports leagues’ antitrust exemption. Concerning online video, policymakers [should] ensure that the public interest benefits that came along with older forms of media distribution, such as broadcast, are not left behind in the move to streaming… [including] diversity, accessibility, and localism.”
You may view the testimony for more details.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at firstname.lastname@example.org or 405-249-9435.