Weekly Column: Artificial Intelligence is at the Heart of Entertainment and Sports Future

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the idea, potential growth, acceptance, and regulation of artificial intelligence (A.I.) in entertainment, media, and sports programming, discussions, and negotiations today.  

You can read the full column below.


The idea, potential growth, acceptance, and regulation of artificial intelligence (A.I.) is at the heart of entertainment, media, and sports programming, discussions, and negotiations today. Two of most pressing issues in the strike and negotiations with SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), WGA (Writers Guild of America, East and West), and AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), respectively, is (1) the share of streaming revenue similar to DVD sales of the past where Hollywood got a second bite at the apple after a theatrical release, and (2) the use of artificial intelligence in the creative process. Of course, as in any negotiation, if more money was given on the backend towards a share or percentage of streaming revenue from subscriptions there might be more acceptance of A.I. Then again, A.I. strikes at the heart of a union in its stated purposed of protecting workers, specifically human workers and their salaries and benefits (particularly in efforts of increasing them).

On the streaming issue, consider that Netflix subscription prices are $6.99, $15.49, or $19.99 per month. Netflix has 238 million subscribers as of the writing of this column. The average price is $14 dollars (actual $14.15) multiplied by 238 million is $3.332 billion in subscription fees per month and $39.984 billion per year. The issue is how much of that goes to production costs, employee salaries, talent contracts, leases, building ownership, other business expenses, and what is left over to share? This is likely the same math that the writers and actors are doing in their negotiations with the streamers and studios.

In addition, streaming views could potentially be a way to pay writers and actors especially for film and television work that does not have a traditional theatrical release, but studios and streamers have also been hesitant to release viewership data because it is less important when subscribers are the drivers for revenue, not viewership. However, streaming and traditional distribution platforms that have advertising options likely care more about viewership because costs to purchase advertisement space could be dependent on viewership. Viewership numbers could also help in awards season for film and television and is clearly a marketing tactic used by streamers and studios to increase the buzz (and sales) around content.

On the A.I. issue, there is even more concern as its introduction could signal less jobs for writers, specifically. The idea is that A.I. will be used by streamers and studios to draft pitches, scripts, and the like. A.I. in entertainment is like the introduction of analytics in sports, specifically baseball, except that analytics was never meant to replace humans as athletes, but was introduced to improve the game with players better fit for certain positions and possibly to save money on free agent and extension contracts.

A.I. could also lower costs for studios and streamers, but at the cost of losing writers in the room. A.I. could be very beneficial to take the collective knowledge of its inputs to come up with marketing solutions, edit drafts, make suggestions, or help decide what films and series should be produced or not. However, each of those A.I. benefits could mean the loss of jobs, creative freedom, and direct human input. Actors also do not want to be replaced or reinvented through technology, yet CGI (computer-generated imagery) is often used in film today. Is CGI the predecessor to A.I.? There is certainly some history of Hollywood’s top actors speaking against out using CGI to bring back deceased actors like James Dean to the silver screen.

In a federal court case decided in early August 2023, the judge ruled that “Human authorship is a bedrock requirement”, upholding a U.S. Copyright Office decision that a piece of art created by A.I. is not open to protection. Of course, even though the A.I. code for programs like ChapGPT is open source, meaning anyone can use it without a license, its inputs from human sources are copyright protected. A.I. may therefore be limited to inputs it can license to create new works at the direction of a human until A.I. is developed to the point it can think for itself.

Regardless, the A.I. inputs (its knowledge) is coming from a human’s brain and work, which is protected and cannot be used without a license baring some exception like being in the public domain. However, imagine an A.I. system has access to thousands of years of knowledge in the public domain and without restrictions—in many ways though A.I. that powerful already exists as inputs are going back hundreds if not thousands of years from written books and other texts. That is likely the concern with A.I., or unregulated A.I., are laws and protections that value collective knowledge in a machine like A.I. over that of a human being. Human’s should always be the highest priority and protections that reflect the same. Indeed, the flower pot would not tell its creator how it should work.

It is also interesting that content on streaming platforms continues to push into live sports or series about sports properties where there seems to be a healthy acceptance of technology, but then again robots fit with A.I. have not been developed to replace athletes, yet. Niche sports have embraced technology to help grow their audience. Amazon’s tech knowledge and cloud experience led to a very successful first year with the National Football League’s Thursday Night Football. Netflix and NASCAR are trying to spark Formula 1 interest with their own racing series. Disney, it is rumored, considered a sale to a technology company like Apple or at least for assets like ABC, FX, and ESPN.

A.I. will continue to be at the heart of entertainment, media, and sports until regulation and acceptance can find a place meet and make a deal.


About Jeremy M. Evans:

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.  

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney of California Sports Lawyer® representing entertainment, media, and sports clients and is licensed to practice law in California.