Weekly Column: The Rising Tides of Content

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about the growth of streaming entertainment, media, and sports content as regional sports networks (RSNs) falter and theaters lessen their once mighty influence.     

You can read the full column below.


“A rising tide lifts all boats” is a famous saying that is often said when people are discussing a trend in the economy or some decision that will impact many people. If the water level rises, the boats will rise too. Unfortunately, when the water level rises, boats that are not equipped or seaworthy will most assuredly sink.

President John F. Kennedy is attributed with having said the phase on occasion, but its originations are from the New England Council, a regional business chamber of commerce, and the Qing Dynasty in China. In other words, the saying has been said many times, by many people, and its origins have a long history. In terms of entertainment, media, and sports content, there is a business principle that streaming platforms would provide more opportunities for the creation and distribution of content because there is unlimited availability on a digital platform versus the peak-time television model that is rapidly changing and some might argue evaporating. Meaning, the invention of streaming content on platforms is a rising tide that lifts all boats, e.g., creatives, writers, directors, actors, and musicians (for musicals scores), etc. have more places to have their content created and distributed where movie theaters and physical distribution (e.g., DVDs) are more limited by space and time and arguably becoming less valuable to businesses and people.

On the one hand, streaming platforms will help the regional sports networks (RSNs) as they are increasingly considering bankruptcy as the companies who own them and control the rights through licensing from sports teams see cable subscriptions decrease. For example, Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that MLB would take over any RSNs’ in need through streaming platforms (e.g., MLB.tv), which would be a great benefit to fans in local markets who have not been able to see their teams play because of blackout policies. The failure of the RSN model has also sparked a conversation of moving MLB to a national television model much closer to the National Football League (NFL) that has seen massive financial success and television market share for the league. MLB moving to a national television contract model is a conversation that probably should have occurred back in the 1960s when Branch Rickey was arguing for a national television model as outlined in the book entitled, “Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself” by Michael Shapiro. In this scenario, a rising tide of streaming is helping distribute and consolidate more content at the expense of a RSN strategy that has likely become outdated.

However, as streaming has increased, content has according to some Hollywood insiders, decreased or disappeared from platforms. It is true that as the economy grows and shrinks so do markets and industries. Nevertheless, the promise of streaming was that film and series content could live online forever as a home, as an additional source of revenue in the post-DVD era, and as an avenue to create more content with streaming being able to exist outside the cable television time-slot. In this context, a rising tide is not lifting all boats. Then again, Producer Jerry Bruckheimer likely said it best in the The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s always about the work, and if the work’s good, it’ll be on the air. That’s how it works. We all have had movies that don’t quite work sometimes, and hopefully the movies that they pull will get out there somewhere, on some platform, in the future.” The work has to be good, but there should always be a home for it (particularly if the work is good, but not great in or for the theaters, etc.). Streamers would be wise to institute some legacy policies to make sure content survives the length and test of time. This is the age-old battle between art and business—often a hard rudder to steer.

Then again, streaming has also created some wonderful new sports documentaries and docuseries on a streaming platform that has not adopted live sports streaming rights as a business acquisition or model and YouTube podcasting is another avenue for content creation and distribution. Change is a certainty, and is likely the oldest business principle created before any rising water levels or boats. A rising tide does life boats, but only those boats ready to make the business changes necessary to survive and thrive.       


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.