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From the Front Lines: Media Liability

Independent agent Mike Davis is a third-generation insurance agent. When Georgia passed a tax credit incentive for film and television production in the late 2000s, "we saw a huge opportunity," he says.
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FTFLResizedMike Davis


Rhodes Risk Advisors

How did you get started at your agency?

I was in the industry for almost 10 years before starting my own agency five years ago. I’m a third-generation insurance agent—both my grandfather and father owned agencies and sold to national firms.

Why focus on media liability insurance?

We got into media liability through the business environment here in Georgia. Back in the late 2000s, they passed a tax credit incentive for film and television production. When we were starting our firm, we were looking at different industry verticals that we could be a part of. We saw a huge opportunity in the media space based on the amount of business that was coming to Georgia, and we went for it. I really believe that industry specialization is the way to grow an insurance agency or brokerage and a way that we can add the most value to our clients.

How has media liability changed?

In the last five years, even though that’s not a long period of time, media liability has changed pretty significantly because of the ways media can be pushed out to the masses. Five years ago, we weren’t talking as much about podcasts and blogs and the different methods of media that are very prevalent today.

The coverage forms have gotten more specialized—it’s not as blanketed as it used to be. And there are fewer carriers in the space. I think there have been some significant claims which have driven some carriers out of the media liability space.

Biggest challenges in media liability?

The fake news phenomenon has been an issue. The different social media platforms. But I think the biggest challenge is the amount of users you can push content out to and how easy it is. Back in 2017, a beef processor sued ABC—I think the number was over $5 billion. Those types of events and just the number of people you can reach with an individual news story or blog post are creating issues for the industry.

Future of media liability insurance?

It’s similar to what we’ve seen in cyber liability. If you look at cyber liability maybe five or 10 years ago, not every industry realized they had an exposure. I think media liability insurance will be that way—there’s going to be a wider array of businesses buying the coverage, and polices are going to become more specialized.

Advice for a fellow media liability insurance agent?

Know the coverage forms and be a specialist in it. Like other coverages, it’s easy to be very surface level and talk to your clients about it. But if you have a client who has a true media liability exposure, you really need to know the ins and outs of the forms to know how to truly protect them.

And then second, develop relationships with the underwriters, because not a ton of insurance markets are targeting media liability or do media liability extremely well. Having those key relationships is definitely something I would recommend.

Favorite media liability success story?

We have a partner that we’d been working with for a political publication. As you can imagine, that’s a pretty tough sector for media liability. And this publication, they’d had a number of claims, most of them north of six figures. Their current carrier was non-renewing them and our challenge was to go out and find a carrier that could bring similar terms and conditions and potentially the same coverage.

We were able to look back at the loss history, realize that a lot of the issues occurred prior to a department change in legal counsel and resulted from using a legal counsel that didn’t specialize in the media industry. We were able to take that story out to the marketplace, secure a program and expand coverage which kept pricing in line with the prior policy period. It was a huge victory when both us and our client expected a significant reduction in coverage and a significant increase in premium.

Will Jones is IA assistant editor.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Publishers Liability