The global Media, Sport and Entertainment (MSE) sector faces a broad spectrum of sustainability and environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) challenges. Key sustainability issues across the sector include data privacy, diversity and inclusion, equality, anti-discrimination, competition, and fraud and corruption. Social and governance issues are particularly prevalent in the sector, although, increasingly, attention is turning to environmental issues, such as high energy use, waste, and climate change concerns.

Having advised a range of MSE clients, among them the world’s largest football league, top-tier professional sports franchises, leading global media outlets, premier advertising agencies and major Hollywood studios, we understand the sector is complex and multi-faceted, operating across multiple jurisdictions and responding to an array of different stakeholders. We have seen that businesses that respond to sustainability issues in a reactive, siloed manner may risk their market position, profit, access to capital and brand value.

We take a holistic approach to these complexities. We begin with our extensive experience advising clients on such issues as intellectual property protection, finance, corporate governance, regulatory compliance, media rights, antitrust and competition law, and disputes and crisis management. Our team combines this in-depth legal experience across the MSE sector with wider experience on cross-cutting ESG issues to offer our clients integrated, comprehensive advice whatever their circumstances – whether developing a sustainability strategy or managing disputes and crises.

Leaders in the transition to a sustainable future face not only risks and challenges but ample opportunities for growth. Our team strives to work with our clients to manage the risks and harness the opportunities in this transition.

Media, broadcasting and film

Media, broadcasting and film companies face systemic risks associated with customer engagement, data security and the right to privacy. Content regulation has moved beyond mere compliance; consumers have become social media activists and companies are judged for media bias, prejudice and discriminatory content. For example, film and content companies are exposed to key person risk and are highly vulnerable to social controversies which may result in program changes and cancellations. While social factors predominate, film studios and broadcasters today are also facing pressures to address environmental concerns – to limit emissions and ensure energy efficiency and to manage waste in high-budget productions.

Publishing

For the publishing industry, the changing nature of its relationship with the consumer in the digital era has uncovered new sustainability challenges. Companies need to respond to customer concerns, particularly on data privacy and security, as well as regulatory concerns on anti-competitive practices and content regulation. Compliance in one area is often not enough to meet stakeholder expectations: for example, social movements are raising pressure on publishers to be accountable for content.

Advertising

The shift to a greater emphasis on sustainability and ESG issues is particularly noticeable in the advertising sector, where brands are increasingly making claims about their products’ sustainability credentials and are also giving greater precedence to ethical issues in ad placement. Given the increased importance of sustainability issues to consumers, advertising regulators are more closely focusing on such matters. This means that compliance with advertising regulation around issues such as environmental ad claims, charity partnerships, and social cause-linked marketing campaigns is more important than ever before, for both advertisers and agencies.

Sports teams and leagues

The focus in sports has largely been on the social aspects of ESG, including anti-discrimination, equality and diversity and inclusion, as well as the governance aspects, such as fraud and corruption. Sports teams and leagues that have failed to meet stakeholder expectations – for example, with respect to racial inequities and sexual harassment – have faced social and stakeholder, including sponsor, backlash. In addition, stadiums are now routinely evaluated on environmental performance, including emissions, energy efficiency and waste management.

International events

International events involve a range of sustainability considerations, from regulation of emissions, energy use and waste management to supply chain management, employment rights, and jurisdictional risks in each host country. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which swiftly led to the cancellation or postponement of competitions and performances on every level around the world, has shown how such large-scale events can be particularly vulnerable to social and environmental factors. Planning for events such as international sport competitions will continue to be challenging in the new normal.