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Will the Premier League see reason over YouTube lawsuit?



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Last month, the FA Premier League filed a class action lawsuit against YouTube for (in my words) “deliberately encouraging users to upload and share short video clips of goals, football skills and controversial incidents to generate public attention and boost traffic.”

The big news this week (or more accurately, Thursday 8th June) is that along with the FA Premier League and Bourne Music, the two parties who filed the initial lawsuit, Cherry Lane Music, Federation Francaise de Tennis (FFT – the French Tennis Association) and Ligue de Football Professionel (LFP – French Ligue 1) have jumped on board the class action lawsuit against YouTube as well.

We’ve discussed this before, and I proposed then that the FA Premier League should consider a paid subscription model to allow football fans to view video clips from all games for a monthly fee. By taking the initiative themselves they would not only attract (and thus take away from YouTube) a considerable number of football fans, but they would also be building a scalable model for other football associations to follow suit and making money while helping fans.

Currently the FAPL seems intent on protecting its copyright as well as that of the member clubs, but seemingly has no idea how to deal with fans who do NOT get the opportunity to catch all the highlights on TV or go watch the actual matches. Individual clubs (such as Manchester United) do have a paid subscription model in place that lets them provide club-related football video footage on their site in exchange for a small monthly fee.

It works, and if the folks at ManUtd.com were better at marketing this membership service, I’m sure that more people would join (Mark, if you read this, consider this an open offer 🙂 ).

There are a couple of topics that I think are worth highlighting here:

It IS a big deal

US-based news watchers will probably hear about ‘English Premier League’ and dismiss the lawsuit as ‘not a big thing’. The reality is the EPL is the most watched football / soccer league around the world, and YouTube has a MASSIVE football following who do nothing else but upload match clips and search for more football videos to share.

Compromise is expected, but very difficult

Everyone is expecting the suing parties to eventually arrive at an agreement with YouTube. I won’t disregard that possibility, but considering that the EPL and YouTube were, for several months, involved in removing vidoes and suspending accounts, you have to consider the possibility that a licensing deal has already been offered by Google and rejected by the EPL.

Knowing the head-in-the-sand nature of the English footballing authorities, I wouldn’t be surprised if they pushed this lawsuit the full course, unless of course there is significant media criticism of the FAPL’s position, and at the moment that seems unlikely.

The ideal solution

We already know the alternatives to YouTube (won’t mention them here though) – and it’s quite easy to acquire ripped football clips directly from the people who cap matches and produce these clips.

Whatever happens with the lawsuit, football fans WILL find another way to get what they want.

The problem is not about catching the free-riders – no matter what the English Premier League does, people will find a way to watch the weekend’s goals for free. No matter what the RIAA does, people will listen to pirated / downloaded music for free and won’t be caught.

The challenge is to monetize their intellectual property in such a way that it benefits both sides – the producers (in this case, the FAPL) and the consumers (us, the football fans).

Put another way, if you were given unlimited (view-only) access to all Premiership goals, would you pay $10 per month?

I think that monetizing video footage from Premiership games is the right way to go forward, and the Premier League has to take initiative here. Eventually, maybe they can work on providing an automated video clipping service that gives us video clips based on the time delimiters we provide (so, for example, if I wanted to see the footage from 34:12 to 35:41, it would automatically edit the base match footage in the backend and give me a clip to download.

Of course, video editing on the fly such as this would be part of a premium membership.

But it’s all about taking initiative and taking actions that benefits your end users.

The class action lawsuit against YouTube won’t help anyone.

Also see:

Premier League sues YouTube – no more free videos?
Premier League vs YouTube – a misguided attack on the wrong target

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.