The Associated Press and News Corp.-owned Stats, Inc. announced yesterday that they were forming a joint venture to “create a one-stop shopping destination…providing the best and most comprehensive sports information and context to their customers.” It’s an interesting play (sorry for the sports pun), combining two of the biggest sports data companies, a potential blow to #3 provider Sportsticker, owned by ABC/Disney/ESPN.
PaidContent.orgtalks about potential conflict with the leagues over the consolidation, citing the now-ancient NBA v. Stats, Inc & Motorola suit. That set the precedent in the mid-90s allowing the ‘facts of the game’ to be public domain. But the real battles in terms of statistical access have revolved around reporter/data gatherer’s access to some venues. My old company, Morris Communications, sued the PGA Tour relative to rights to gather and distribute detailed golf scoring information, but for all intents and purposes, Morris lost that battle. And there have been various dustups over reporter’s rights to gather detailed MLB data, like pitch position and such, and the ballyhooed controversy recently over the official licenses for fantasy sports activities.
I would argue, however, that the leagues will appreciate the fact that the data consolidators are also now all tied, in some way, to business units that own broadcast rights. That just gives them more ability to press these providers to behave how they want them to.
If more leagues go to great lengths to create data themselves about their events, the PGA Tour case could have great ramifications. But on the flipside (and I’m no lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt), if the scoring aggregators are performing similar feats to provide their content, they may gain other protections.