Could Big Ten winter football season result in TV money windfall? Q&A with sports law expert

August 27, 2020 – Media Mention
NJ Advance Media

Irwin Kishner, co-chair of Herrick's Sports Law Group was interviewed by NJ Advance Media on the cancelation of the fall football season by the Big Ten due to the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting effects on the media rights deals currently in place.  

Kishner advocated that both conferences and networks tread carefully and work together to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19. “It’s a great product,” Kishner said. “I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon, notwithstanding this one in a hundred years asteroid that hit Earth.”  

Kishner noted resolving these media rights agreements will come down to contractual interpretation, specifically the force majeure clause. Furthermore, Kishner stated that very few of these contracts would have pandemic specific clauses or would have contemplated the complete cancelation of the entire season. While many of these conferences are paid upfront for the media rights, the unknown is how the payments will be handled.   

“I really think it behooves everyone to behave well and not engage in any ‘scorched earth’ policy. I do think it makes sense for people to be communicative, open the dialogue and figure out how to manage our way out of this," noted Kishner. "I do ultimately believe stadiums will be full again, and if everyone is going to engage in acrimonious, litigious-type strategies, it’s just going to enrich lawyers - inappropriately, perhaps - and not get to what really needs to get done, which is act in the best interest of students while trying to put a great product on the field and hopefully generate a lot of money by doing so.”

Kishner also emphasized the goal of returning to normalcy in the following season, and "hopefully people will be creative and pick up a couple of bucks along the way.”