The SEC, one of the most valuable and popular conferences in college sports, has moved to "prohibit fans from distributing photographs or video of its games in real time for commercial use," The New York Times reported. Perhaps unsurprisingly, sports bloggers are none too happy with a policy that tries to stifle their work, but others see the logic of an enterprise that seeks to protect their most valuable asset--the games themselves. Will the policy help the conference endure? Or will it doom it to irrelevance on the Web, and later, off the Web as well?
- Brilliant, says Jock-O-Sphere's Ryan Corazza, who, while empathizing with the fans, points out that, "CBS and ESPN are paying the SEC $3 billion in broadcasting rights for its games over the next 15 years. These are exclusive rights, and it's huge money. A fan in the stands with video capabilities jeopardizes that." He continues, saying the policy "covers the conference for the future, when cell phone video is more advanced and a fan's streaming feed from the stadium could actually be good enough to tune into from home.
- Forward-thinking, writes Michael Kruse from Tampa Bay's St. Petersburg times. He says the SEC's policy isn't so much about what fans can do right now, but what they'll be able to do five, ten, even fifteen years from now. The conference, he says, gets it. "The language of the conference's policy suggests they know all too well the high-stakes fight that's just beginning. If exclusivity is the aim, and it is, because it's that exclusivity that commands the billions of dollars from TV networks, then the fans aren't just fans anymore. They're looking more and more like so many cell phone-equipped individual information feeds."
- Out of Touch, says Dasheill Bennett from Deadspin, who quotes a representative from the conference saying that the goal of the policy is "to keep as many eyeballs as possible on ESPN and CBS." Bennett's take on this? "The idea that grainy online videos from the third deck are competition for ESPN broadcasts is ludicrous, of course, and no one is actually going to be roaming the stands snatching cellphones from Twitter users. (I hope.) But the SEC is so paranoid that their "brand" will be diluted by some futuristic technology they don't understand, that they're drawing the line right now. You want a ticket, you play by our rules—rules that we might decide to change at any moment. If this makes conference officials seem old and out of touch, that's because they are."
- Why Stop SEC Enthusiasm?, says Techdirt, which pits the SEC's exclusivity policy against another massive conference, the Big Ten's policy allowing any and all forms of social media amongst its fans. "You have to think that endabling fans to help promote you is going to be a better long term strategy for building up fan loyalty than trying to actively stifle their ability to express themselves and promote the teams and events. How enthusiastic are SEC fans going to be if every time they try to talk up their favorite team the league threatens to sue them?"
- A Biased Media Trend, says the Associated Press, who, along with two other major news organizations, has sent a letter to four of the top schools in the SEC, pointing out objections to several of the points in the SEC's policy. The AP's Associate General Council, Dave Tomlin says that the conference "and some other big college conferences want to become publishing and broadcasting businesses now. It is constructed so the leagues can run their own publicity machines, make money and control their message, control their brand. What that means for the fans is less opportunity to see independent, objective exposure. The leagues will cover themselves."