We’re looking at an interesting battle ahead, pitting the SEC’s new media policy against… well, the new media.
… At the first Hackers’ Conference in 1984, Brand put his finger on a central paradox about digital information that is causing us so much trouble today. “On the one hand,” Brand said, “information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”
Twenty five years later, nothing’s changed. On the expensive side, you have the big, new ESPN contract leading to new ways to pay for it.
… While SEC member institutions will benefit financially from the new 15-year television deals signed with CBS and ESPN, the fan bases of the 12 universities must adjust to more night games than ever before. ESPN now has rights to every SEC home football game not selected by CBS, and ESPN’s highest ratings always have been at night.
But information wants to be free. That’s how you get to the irony of a Seinfeld episode about bootlegging appearing on YouTube.
And that’s how you get to what’s coming over the broadcasts of SEC football games.
“The exclusivity that can be secured in the domain of television cannot be guaranteed online.”
Go to YouTube. Search pretty much any game anywhere. Some of what pops up are clips taken by fans with their phones from the stands. They’re almost always grainy, or jumpy, and generally low-quality.
They’re not going to be that way forever.
The only certainty in technology is that it gets faster and cheaper, exponentially, always.
Imagine, then, a day not too far away when fans from their seats will use their phones to stream onto the Internet a video feed, for free, that conceivably could approximate the images for which ESPN and CBS have paid billions of dollars.
And at that point, where does the SEC go? Does it prohibit cell phones at games? How do you catch every device, when tens of thousands are being carried in by fans and are likely to be incredibly small and powerful in a few more technological generations? Or do you ban the fans from the games altogether? Don’t laugh; it’s not that far-fetched.
“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.”
“The days of the multibillion-dollar exclusive contracts are possibly in jeopardy,” said Gillmor, the author of We the Media.
The current SEC TV contracts run through 2024. What do you think a cell phone will be able to do by then?