“The audience isn’t the audience anymore”

Thanks to Michael Kruse, a staff writer for the St. Petersburg Times for one of the best stories yet on the challenges facing “media exclusivity” in sports. In the interest of full disclosure, the company I work for (Learfield) pays serious money for just the sort of exclusivity described in in this piece, which focuses on a recent change in the media policy of the SEC, one college sports premier conference.

“… earlier this month (the SEC) sent to its 12 schools an eye-opening new media policy. It places increasingly stringent limits on reporters and how much audio, video and “real-time” blogging they can do at games, practices and news conferences. But even more interesting is that the policy also includes rules for fans in the stands. No updating Twitter feeds. No taking photos with phones and posting them on Facebook or Flickr. No taking videos and putting them on YouTube.

A conference spokesman said this policy was meant to try to keep as many eyeballs as possible on ESPN and CBS — which are paying the SEC $3 billion for the broadcast rights to the conference’s games over the next 15 years — and also on the SEC Digital Network — the conference’s own entity that’s scheduled to debut on SECSports.com later this month.”

The reporters covering sporting events have always (well, at least since blogs and such came along) been under certain restrictions regarding blogs and how much audio/video they could put online. The new policy by the SEC is “the most stringent language yet in college sports.”

“Ticketed fans can’t “produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event. …”

Sounds like I couldn’t call my brother and describe a thrilling touchdown run. God forbid, I took a photo or video clip and emailed it to him. The Times story included some really good quotes, like this one from Mike Masnick, editor of the blog techdirt:

“If it reaches the point where it’s not just 15 people doing this, it’s 1,000 people, it gets more and more difficult to stop,” he said. “At which point you either stop letting fans into games or you figure out a way to deal with the fact that fans are going to do this.”

…and this one from new media expert Clay Shirky:

“The idea that people can’t capture their own lived experience is a losing proposition.”

I encourage anyone involved with collegiate sports (and related media) to read the full story. Here’s my take-away:

“The audience isn’t the audience anymore. The SEC’s greatest supporters are now also the SEC’s biggest competitors.”

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