“This is not a restriction of overall coverage. … It’s a restriction of video.”

“There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission.” – Intro to The Outer Limits

There’s an old saying that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  That doesn’t describe exactly what seems to be going on with the SEC and its sports product, but it’s not too far off.

So the excitement expressed at SECFans.com about the coming brave new world

Now to the juiciest tidbit! The SEC Digital Network will change the way you use your downtime. From the sound of it, we are all going to be drooling in front of our computers for hours on end. It starts with a totally redesigned SECSports.com. Utilizing ESPN360 technology the plan is to launch an iTunes-esque site with the following:

  • Game Replays
  • Game Highlights
  • Tailgating Events
  • Post-game Interviews
  • Press Conferences
  • Behind-the-Scenes Pep-talks
  • Real-time SEC News

Now, viewing the content will be free, but you’ll also have the option to purchase content for download or on DVD. Pretty nifty, right? Doesn’t seem mind-blowing yet? What if I said that this is supposed to cover all men’s and women’s sports? Still not enough? Well, that’s where XOS Technologies steps in. XOS recently acquired Collegiate Images, and they are the content distribution rights-holder for 11 SEC schools (No, I don’t know who the 12th is, nor do I know how it affects things). Combine that with the ESPN deal bringing all rights to their broadcasts back to the schools and you’ve got one hell of a resource…

has to be tempered by the other shoe the conference just dropped.

The Southeastern Conference is banning media outlets from posting game highlights online as part of a deal limiting the availability of that content to its new Web site.

As part of the agreement, some details of which may change, media outlets will no longer be allowed to post clips from games on their Web sites. TV stations can broadcast the footage only as part of newscasts within 72 hours. Exceptions are limited to universities and those holding or paying for specific rights.

Last month, the SEC and XOS Digital announced a deal to launch the SEC Digital Network. The Lake Mary-based company is revamping the SEC’s Web site to provide access to highlights and complete game replays, some of which would be available for a fee.

Now my point here isn’t to demonize the SEC.  There is an air of almost mournful inevitability about this decision that arose the minute CBS and ESPN put the value they did on the conference’s broadcast rights.  And I can’t blame them for wanting to maximize what they can get for the property.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a certain amount of uneasiness about it, either.

David Hale says it far more eloquently than I can.

… What does it all mean? Well, for one, no more videos on this blog of practice or player interviews, but that’s really just the start.

As teams, conferences and leagues expand their multimedia platforms, these things will continue to occur. (And they already have in other places, including the NFL.) The thought among many of these organizations is that you, as fans, don’t care. They think you’ll be satisfied with the controlled information you are given from them — essentially replacing the media with a public relations firm.

Maybe that’s true, but I’m guessing after your favorite team gets spanked by a rival, you’re not looking for the watered-down version of what happened. Perhaps you really don’t care where the information is coming from, but my guess is that you value quality journalism a lot more than they give you credit for. Maybe you go to one place and one place only for your news. But I’d be willing to bet the majority of you have gotten used to being able to surf a few dozen sites to get a broad view of Georgia football.

Look, I know things are changing for the media. I’ve been as vocal about the problems of the newspaper business as anyone. But for all our problems, I’m pretty certain that most fans appreciate the work most of us do — even if they don’t necessarily like all of it. And if you don’t things like this will seriously affect the coverage you get of your favorite teams, you’re being extremely naive.

The thing is, there’s nothing you can do about it.  They are controlling transmission.

*****************************************************************

UPDATE: Related thoughts here at And The Valley Shook.

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17 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

17 responses to ““This is not a restriction of overall coverage. … It’s a restriction of video.”

  1. NCT

    I’ve been letting this news settle into my mind and haven’t formed any strong opinions yet. I did some coursework in intellectual property and entertainment law while in school, but that’s about as far as my expertise goes (not far).

    A few things come to mind immediately. If I’m watching WSB TV news on Friday night, and they’re previewing the next day’s UGA game, they can’t show any highlights from the previous weeks as part of their coverage (I reckon exception might be made for the CBS affiliate if it had been a CBS game)? And those season or bowl previews the local stations put together (kind of a low-budget feel, but I can never get enough Bulldogs, so I always watch) can’t include any season highlight footage?

    “Sports” has always been a strange sort of addendum to “news”. Maybe we were wrong, but it was always so. These were events of public interest on which news sources reported. Now these events of public interest will be treated more like a private piece of property. That’s not necessarily incorrect, but it sure is new and different.

    My gut reaction is to agree with Hale. We consumers of information will suffer a bit for it. Information might become much more easily accessible, but that information will be much more tightly controlled. It might *feel* better, but I have my doubts as to whether it actually will *be* better.

    I suppose it’s like internet search engines, in a way. I can search for something and get lots and lots of access, and it feels like I’m being led to a huge array of resources, when in reality, I’m being led specifically to the places that the search engine wants me to see. And I don’t even know it’s happening.

  2. BigOldDawg

    It should be interesting down the road somewhere when the traditional media begins to investigate the “ownership” of a football game held in a public venue, with university students and employees participating.

    Does this mean the time when the traditional media is barred from practice and our only access is through the SEC’s outlet is not far off?

    Seems to me there are some fairly complex issues here.

  3. Apparently this may apply to fans AT the game as well: http://www.jacklail.com/blog/archives/2009/08/blogging-has-its-limits-in-the.html (found at Instapundit)

    The most controversial aspect of the new rules is that it limits video from press conferences and even practice. In the usual scenario, press conferences are held for the cameras. Here’s more from TuscaloosaNews.com.

    There are similar provisions in the “fine print” of tickets for those going as spectators, which they might find surprising as they’re tweeting, texting, blogging or shooting cell phone video that comes under wary gaze of the SEC rights guardians.

  4. Ty Durden

    I don’t know what to think of it all until they get this site up and running and I can view the content. My only worry is coverage bias or their selective use of certain media to promote certain teams. As long as what they do for say a Florida or LSU they also do for a Kentucky or Vanderbilt, I guess I have no problem with it. But theyd better be asking some damn good questions like David used to…

    • “As long as what they do for say a Florida or LSU they also do for a Kentucky or Vanderbilt, I guess I have no problem with it.”

      I am thinking the opposite here. I am afraid that all coverage will be homogenized to the point where the passion and soul is taken out of something that we all have a very personal, sometimes even irrational connection to. I like a little bias, personally, as long as it is tempered and good-natured. That’s why we get so fired up on these blogs sometimes, and it is a shame that our outlets for practice info and game highlights will be controlled by one very bureaucratic entity. I don’t think that any of us have a clue where this is headed, but we will soon find out.

      I guess I just hope that the perspective that the good folks here at GTP, along with EDSBS, Hey Jenny Slater, and even the beat writers, etc… will still have the opportunity to put some of this “content” into a unique and interesting perspective.

      Sorry if I am sounding like chickin little here, but I guess I am more than a little bit worried. This could potentially make the offseason seem even longer than it already does, and I didn’t think that was possible.

      • Just read my post again and it seems way more pessimistic than I intended.

        I DO think that we will have control over what happens, because we are the ultimate consumers of the product that is being sold. I just think it will take a while to figure out how to USE that power.

  5. 69Dawg

    BigOldDawg has a point. If the school is a public school then the press has access under any number of laws. Heck they can get video under the Freedom of Information Act etc. SEC is about to screw the Golden Goose. Some of the more well financed media outlets will no doubt sue for access and win. This seems like a not too well thought out move by the SEC so I’m guessing it is XOS Digital that came up with this gem. It will not stand.

    • NCT

      I think there’s a pretty big difference between gaining access to something through open records laws and broadcasting not just the information contained therein but making use of the actual document. The contents of Mark Richt’s contract, for example, is an entirely different kind of “property” than is the trademarked logo of the University or of University athletics. For example, I’m pretty sure the public entity known as the University of Georgia has the right to stop you from slapping that 1785 Arch logo on your head shop and calling it “University of Georgia Smoking Accessories” (extreme example — same goes for “UGA Shoe Repair”).

      “Fair use” rules would still apply, but Scout, Yahoo! Sports, WSB, the Macon Telegraph, etc., are all trying to make money, and the SEC doesn’t want them to make money off of properties owned by its member institutions. I’m not saying it’s a good thing (see my post above), but the fact that all but one member are public probably won’t make a huge difference.

      BTW, for an absolutely stellar and immensely entertaining explanation of U.S. copyright law and fair use, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUPsfYJONrU which boldly uses unlicensed Disney property (exclusively) to prove its point. I love that piece.

  6. I too can’t blame them for wanting to maximize their earnings from their investment. But it’s gonna suck for fans. At least the ones who are hungry for accurate, finely tuned information. If one conglomerate is hoarding video and has premier access rights, it can get lazy and drunk in its own splendor. Meanwhile fans go hungry.

    An open, free-market is better. One where certain beat writers, media outlets can separate themselves and the others try to keep up.

    In short, accountability = awesomeness.

  7. I’m no legal expert either, but I would hazard to guess that given that the University is a state-funded institution, and the athletic department is run with taxpayer money as well as donations from the public, and UGA is indeed public property, as is Sanford Stadium, that they aren’t going to be able to go NFL on their media rights. Sure, XOS Digital is paying them, but so are the taxpayers. I imagine that the first time somebody gets shut out, there is going to be some legal stuff filed.

  8. Ty Durden

    The short-fall I see here is the monopolizing of a frenzy that has existed for over 10 years now on the internet, and 100 plus years in print. They’d essentially be killing the grapevine we’ve become more than accustomed to, and theyre really screwing with the twitter/blog era that has taken off in large part due to our football hunger. This could very well be a case in which the biggest fish in the pond eats all the smaller fish. Lets just hope it doesnt take too long for the big fish to starve to death if it does

  9. Lowcountry Dawg

    There might be a distinction between blogs like this one and David Hale’s on one hand, and blogs like Kyle King’s and Doc Saturday on the other. This one doesn’t have a profit motive. The blogs that exist off ad revenue are like TV stations & subject to copyright laws. The SEC owns its copyrights and can craft its license agreements to maximize revenue.

    However, does somebody out there know whether copyright law can prevent a non-commercial blog from ripping a DVD of a game then posting excerpts?

  10. Keith

    Sounds like big socialist government to me…does Obama have anything to do with XOS digital.

  11. Dog in TN

    David Hale’s best work is with the written word. Very seldom do I view the videos attached to articles. Usually, I have already seen it. David will continue with his superb style, and I will continue to read his columns.

    This edict does bother me in that this is one more example of the business of college sports and the more business is injected, the less the sport will be entertaining. A long process, but my own experience is I very seldom watch baseball or the NFL. That was a long process as well.

    As for the news industry, it is not news any longer, but selected opinions.

  12. Brandon

    I certainly like David Hale’s blog and this comment is not about him, but I do think it is funny that these newspaper/media types are usually all for change and shaking up other people’s professions without anyone listening to the people in those professions if the change will actually be for the better or not but then when someone s#@ts in their own backyard they don’t like it. As far as David’s blog and most blogs I just read them I usually don’t watch video’s either, so I don’t know how much it will effect me.

  13. i most certainly agree Brandon!