The emergence of web 2.0 as a distribution alternative for traditional TV content has received a great deal of attention recently, and for good reason. Technology has indeed caught up with the convergence vision that tech industry leaders have been prognosticating about for years. In many households, mine included, watching video content on a computer or iPod that has been delivered via the Internet is occupying more and more time.

For a media rights holder this is both a daunting challenge and new opportunity. In motorsports there are a couple of interesting scenarios playing out on different scales and in different ways.

MotoGP, the third highest-viewed global TV sports property, behind F1 and soccer, has a claimed worldwide viewing audience that exceeds 300 million. For Dorna, the commercial rights holder for MotoGP, television rights revenues are a significant component of a very successful enterprise and an asset they protect and manage with great vigor. In addition to their far-reaching TV deals, Dorna has developed a terrific, fee-based website, motogp.com, that provides rich, ancillary content and race coverage to an even wider base of passion-fueled MotoGP fans.

In spite of this astute media rights management by Dorna, there is a website that broadcasts the Chinese network’s MotoGP broadcasts live via the Internet without permission from Dorna. And, being in China, there is not much recourse for Dorna at this time.

On a smaller scale, here in the U.S. beginning in 2007, AMA Motocross moved its U.S. TV distribution from the VS. cable channel to Speed Channel. This change will very likely increase TV viewership for motocross and there are some interesting new aspects to the structure of this deal.

Motocross, being somewhat of a niche sports property, is not in a position to receive a television rights fee and, in fact, must pay towards the production costs of the programming. This has allowed motocross to bring in non-TV-media partners to produce and distribute content from the events through the Internet. These online TV rights would have traditionally been held on to by the rights-paying TV partner who would have not likely exploited them.
The complexities of effective media rights management with the myriad of new media opportunities will continue to increase. Savvy rights holders will need to be looking for ways to exploit these and may be able to use them to offset the trends of decreasing TV revenues, increasing TV costs or non-availability of TV time.

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