A photo of the Logo of the National Football L...

A photo of the Logo of the National Football League (NFL) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If any area of the entertainment industry has proved to be almost bullet proof in terms of piracy, it’s the National Football League.

Despite the overwhelming interest in watching NFL games and the dramatic shift to online viewing in recent years, audiences on traditional broadcast media have remained impressively strong.

As the Washington Post reports, this has played a major part in NFL executives feeling little pressure to bring their audience online. While competing sports have flagged digital expansion as a major factor in their continuing success, football has shown a stronger commitment to network television channels and cable providers and the advertising value that they glean from expensive rights agreements.

Part of the sport’s success in fighting off the pirates lie in the tenacity with which the league protects its intellectual property. 

Before Super Bowl XLVI, 16 pirate sites were shut down for attempting to broadcast the NFL’s show piece event, as well as hundreds of other sporting events across various leagues. And in advance of this year’s game, the league’s lawyers were out in force to prevent unofficial use of their IP online and off. Over the years, the organization has never let up on its commitment to keeping the branded content that reaches its audience flowing through official channels.

As a result of this focus on enforcement, NFL executives have existing broadcast agreements that skew heavily to traditional television for the remainder of the decade. Though there may be room to allow these providers to use their expensive exclusives to move highlights and other extras content online, the main event – live and up to the minute coverage – will remain a broadcast TV staple for the foreseeable future.

We’ve talked a lot this year about balancing intellectual property enforcement with education campaigns. While the NFL is the equivalent of a Beyonce or Game of Thrones, i.e. large enough to be close to immune to the effects of piracy, it has nonetheless bolstered that position by doggedly protecting the value of its brand.

This has given it the room to maneuver how and when it wants to make the move online for fans, rather than being dragged by rampant theft of the events it produces.