The irony of the NCAA bracket leak


In today’s digital world, keeping information secure is more difficult than ever. In the world of entertainment — from music, to movies, to television — keeping content from leaking onto the internet and into the public domain is a constant struggle.

On Sunday, the sports world learned that it was not immune to the same struggle for privacy faced by the entertainment industry, as the official NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket leaked on Twitter before the official reveal. A tweet reading “Spoiler Alert: full bracket,” accompanied by a photo of a bracket with the entire 68 team roster filled in, was sent out roughly halfway through CBS’s two hour “Selection Sunday” telecast. The tweet quickly went viral across the internet, with many bubble teams finding out long before the official reveal whether they had been chosen to play in the tournament. Sports media quickly criticized the breach in security and questioned the journalistic ethics of releasing the leaked bracket. Most importantly, the NCAA’s two hour primetime “Selection Sunday” special had been completely undercut.

In this new era of immediate and powerful information distribution, it’s easy to criticize the unlawful spreading of content through the internet, arguing that the creators of content should be fairly compensated for the right to access the content. The music industry is currently in a state of upheaval over how to sell music. Some listeners utilize streaming services, which offer a paid monthly subscription plan for the right to entire music libraries, while others buy albums and songs individually and others still choose to download music illegally from the internet. The way we consume media is changing rapidly, and artists are tapping into new forms of media distribution with the goal of making money off of the hard work and labor they put into their craft. The premature release of the 2016 NCAA bracket was viewed in the same manner as the leak of a popular album before its release date, with disappointment that the public release of content was done unlawfully, though without creating compensation for the artist. But there is a distinct tinge of irony to the public sympathy for the NCAA following this leak, and that’s because the creators of the content for the ‘Selection Sunday’ TV show aren’t actually compensated. The players who put their bodies on the line to create the entertainment product that is ‘March Madness’ do not receive even a percentage of the enormous television revenues that the event creates.

So, whatever your viewpoint on the journalistic ethics of publicly releasing controlled content, don’t let the NCAA fool you; this is about the revenue that the “Selection Sunday” telecast creates for the NCAA and participating schools. The creators of the content were never going to get paid for it.