In the US, sports are televised on various broadcasting networks, national and specialty sports cable channels, and regional sports networks, including ESPN, Fox Sports, NBC Sports, CBS Sports and NFL Network. These media houses pay substantial amounts of money to win contracts granting exclusive or non-exclusive rights to air the events. They may also be granted permission to sell their broadcasts or content to other media entities, including digital platforms.
Recent advances in IT have revolutionized broadcast sports coverage and enabled billions of fans across the globe to take part in the splendor and excitement of major sporting events happening thousands of miles away. These transformative changes are bringing new tides to the industry, with studies revealing the global value of sports media expected to breach the $60 billion barrier by 2024, as high-profile deals, including the new NFL and Paris 2024 Olympics broadcast contracts, come into effect.
What is sports journalism?
Sports journalism is a field of journalism focused on reporting and analyzing sporting events, athletes, teams and related news. Sports journalists use their skills and top-notch tools to gather information, conduct interviews and produce articles and broadcasts that cover various aspects of a sporting event. These journalists work for media outlets such as TV networks, newspapers, radio stations and online platforms. Some also work as freelance journalists running dedicated digital platforms.
What are broadcasting rights?
Broadcasting rights are legal agreements that give a specific media organization the exclusive or non-exclusive rights to broadcast or transmit sporting events. Typically, broadcasting rights are sold by sports organizations, leagues and event organizers. For many sporting organizations, the sale of broadcasting and media rights is one of the significant sources of revenue-generating streams of funds they need to finance their operations, refurbish stadiums and develop sports at the grassroots level. On the other end, media houses earn royalties from selling their exclusive footage to other media outlets. They also generate revenues through advertisements, brand partnerships and endorsement deals.
How do media companies get broadcasting rights?
Typically, media companies bid for broadcasting rights, and the highest bidder obtains permission to broadcast a sporting event. Media houses negotiate the contracts for a set duration, giving them exclusive or non-exclusive rights to broadcast a specific league, tournament or event. These contracts may provide restrictions on the use of content, sublicensing rights and geographical limitations. Media houses may be allowed to produce additional programming, such as pre-game shows, post-game analyses and documentaries, to enhance the viewer experience and attract more audiences. Acquiring broadcast rights is a significant source of revenue for sports organizations, as media companies pay substantial amounts to secure exclusive rights to popular sports events.
How do sports journalism and broadcasting rights relate?
Sports journalism and broadcasting rights are closely intertwined. This is because sports journalists rely on broadcasting rights to access live events and provide coverage to their audience. These rights allow media organizations to produce and distribute sports content, enabling fans to watch or listen to games, matches and tournaments through various media channels.
Sports journalism and broadcasting: Business opportunities worth pursuing
Sports journalism and broadcasting provide myriads of business opportunities for individuals interested in the field. Some of the legal business avenues to venture into include:
Starting your own media outlet
With exemplary sports journalism training and a broadcasting license, you can launch your own sports media outlet, such as a website, blog or even podcast, that allows you to produce and distribute sports content. Use the platform to cover a variety of sports, analyses, interviews and exciting perspectives that attract a wide audience. With time, your sporting channel will generate revenue from sponsored content, ads, merchandise sale and partnerships.
Offering live event coverage
Live sporting coverage can be a lucrative business opportunity. Consider partnering with sports organizations or negotiating broadcasting rights to provide live coverage of a sporting event. This involves using ideal mediums like TV, radio, social media or streaming platforms to broadcast games, matches and tournaments. Maximize your revenue stream through advertising, sponsorships and subscriptions.
Launching a sports talk show
Another great business idea is hosting a sports talk show on radio, TV or an online platform, such as a podcast. The show allows you to discuss sports-related topics, interview sports personalities and experts, and engage with a dedicated sports audience. You can monetize the show through ads, partnerships and live events.
Starting a sports writing and freelancing career
As a freelance sports writer, you can produce a range of content related to major sporting events happening locally, regionally and internationally. Freelancing provides opportunities to work with multiple media outlets where you cover events, write opinion pieces, provide analysis and generate feature stories. You can also write books and magazines on sports or biographies of famous athletes. If you are just starting out, build strong relationships with editors, publications and online platforms to secure regular assignments and build your portfolio.
Exploring opportunities in social media and digital platforms
With more than 4.2 billion people on social media, the demand for engaging sports content on social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and Twitter has never been higher. Creating engaging video content and fun sports-related content that attracts a considerable following can be a great way to maximize these opportunities. Monetize your social media pages through brand collaborations, sponsorships and advertisements.
Going into sports photography and videography
If you have a knack for taking epic pictures, take advantage of this valuable skill and capture compelling sports moments through photos and videos. This can help open many opportunities. As a freelance photographer, you can sell your content to media outlets, sports organizations and even individual sports enthusiasts. Besides, you can create an online platform focused on highlight reels, documentaries and promotional team videos.
Offering consultancy services in sports data analysis
As sports become increasingly data-driven, the demand for talent to analyze and interpret sports data is growing. Building expertise in sports analytics can open doors for a consulting business focused on providing statistical insights and developing models for sports teams and other sporting-related entities, including betting companies.
Challenges facing sports journalism and broadcasting
Like all other industries, sports journalism and broadcasting face various challenges thanks to advancing technologies, changing consumer preferences, shifting regulatory environments and more. Here are some of the top challenges facing the industry:
Signal theft and piracy
Competitive sports broadcasting is a billion-dollar industry thanks partly to the tight intellectual property rights and the close cooperation between the media, sponsors and sports authorities. However, as sophisticated communication technologies become more accessible to the broader public, criminals have found ways to steal signals and retransmit live broadcasts illegally via the internet. Signal piracy threatens the advertising and sales revenues for the broadcasters who paid for exclusive rights to show live coverage of sports events. It also compromises the value of such rights, ultimately reducing the revenues of sports organizations.
Although US and EU laws offer several techniques to tackle signal piracy, including shutting down illegal websites, broadcasting organizations continue to face serious threats from the ever-evolving pirates.
Legal issues related to copyright infringements
Apart from signal piracy, sports journalism and broadcasting also face various legal challenges related to copyright infringement. If you don’t have proper permissions and licensing, using copyrighted images or footage on your sports channel and sharing content on social media can attract various legal issues. Staying compliant with copyright laws and navigating licensing agreements is a constant challenge for sports media professionals.
Changing consumer preference
In recent times, sports media entities have continuously faced challenges relating to changing the habits of their viewers. Generally, how people consume sports content today has shifted significantly compared to yesteryear. Many viewers now prefer on-demand and personalized experiences, challenging the traditional broadcasting model. Streaming services and mobile apps allow fans to watch highlights, clips and live games whenever and wherever they want, reducing reliance on traditional broadcast networks.
With abundant content available across various platforms, sports journalism and broadcasting face intense competition for audience attention. Viewers and readers now have numerous options, including sports blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels and social media influencers, making it harder for traditional media outlets to maintain their audience base.
Misinformation and fake news
Social media platforms have become integral to sports journalism and broadcasting. While they provide opportunities for immediate news updates, fan engagement and viral content, they also present challenges. Misinformation and fake news can spread rapidly, making it hard for journalists to provide accurate and reliable reporting.
Steps to becoming a sport journalist
If you are passionate about sports media, becoming a sports journalist can be a valuable career choice. Sports journalists play an integral role in the sports broadcasting industry. They add depth, nuance and humanity to the sports we enjoy in a myriad of ways. These media professionals also leverage their oratory skills and in-depth statistics to understand how players navigate games clearly. They inform us what to expect from every player and team we follow, thus helping make larger-than-life personalities seem more real and accessible to us.
Get a bachelor’s degree
A bachelor’s degree is required to become a sports journalist. Before you choose your major, consider the ideal degree program in relation to the niche you want to pursue. A sports journalism degree online from a top institution such as St. Bonaventure University equips aspiring journalists with the skills needed to excel in today’s dynamic sports media landscape while upholding journalistic standards and exploring key societal topics.
Once you have figured out the niche you want to pursue, explore opportunities to gain experience even as you study. This may include writing for the student newspaper, signing up as an announcer in your school morning shows, doing sports recaps and coaching little league sports. You can also participate in local leagues as a player and write for your local newspaper. Generally, the more experience you have in all areas of sports, communication and broadcasting, the more you will appeal to future employers.
Complete an internship
Internships are a crucial part of your career journey. They help you gain real-world experience in your industry and can be done after you have completed your degree as you prepare to find work. This experience also connects you with professionals in your chosen field who can mentor and inspire you on your career path. Generally, employers in this industry require candidates to have completed an internship before hiring them.
Learn the rules of various games
As a sports writer or commentator, you may need to analyze, review and comment on various sports. The only way to be adept at this is by having a solid grasp of the rules of each game. You should also keep tabs on the players each season and review their gameplay.
Apply for jobs
Once you are ready, apply for a job at local news and radio companies. At the start of your career, applying at smaller, more local stations that offer excellent opportunities to gain experience is advisable. Start by reaching out to your contacts at the companies where you completed your internships.
What jobs are available to sports journalists?
Sports journalism encompasses everyone from newspaper reporters covering local games to sportscasters covering international events. Thanks to advancing technologies, sports journalism careers today offer more diversity in terms of jobs. Here are some of the examples of sports journalism jobs:
- Sports reporter
- Sports writer
- Sports editor
- Sports producer
- Sports anchor
- Sports broadcaster/commentator
Sports journalism is a rewarding career
The explosion of internet media has dramatically altered the sports journalism and broadcasting landscape. Today, sports media entities and freelancers are leveraging the power of digital media and social platforms to expand their reach and engage fans through live updates, podcasts, videos and interactive content. However, like all other sectors, the sports media industry is facing myriads of challenges, including signal piracy, rising competition, changing consumer habits and legal threats related to copyright infringements.
To overcome these challenges, industry players need to adapt to the changing media landscape, embrace digital platforms and prioritize audience engagement. They should also strive to uphold journalistic integrity, foster diverse talent and explore new revenue models beyond traditional advertising and broadcasting rights.