Privilege Over Innovation: Sports Broadcasting, Mobile Television, and the Case of Aereo


  • Stephen W. Dittmore University of Arkansas
  • Brett Hutchins Monash University



Despite the advent of digital and mobile technologies, major leagues and television networks continue to enjoy significant control over the distribution of popular sports content. Leagues have long enjoyed an antitrust exemption via the Sports Broadcasting Act when it comes to negotiating pooled coverage rights with broadcasters. This paper argues that leagues leverage this competitive advantage to thwart technological innovation. Our case is demonstrated by an examination of how Aereo—a startup technology company sued by broadcast networks in 2013 for copyright infringement—was framed in legal debates and news media coverage. Reinforced by statements circulated in the media, the leagues filed an amicus brief supporting their broadcast partners that expressed concerns about how Aereo-style innovation would impact their business models. Drawing in related international cases, the present study shows that the control of intellectual property and enforcement of copyright are crucial sources of power in the global sports media market.






Original Research