Wednesday, July 18, 2007

That's only enough time for one Chad Johnson end-zone dance

Earlier this week, the NFL began a campaign to actively shift the media’s focus on the league from athletic and coaching related activities towards more accessible media topics like dog fighting. If a reporter were video taping at the court house in Richmond this week, they would be welcomed with unfettered access to investigator press conferences and interviews with Michael Vick’s attorney’s and Federal prosecutors. The content of these interviews could then be freely posted on the reporter’s online media source. However, if the same reporter were to travel to Atlanta and interview Bobby Petrino, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, and a few of Vick’s teammates working out at the team’s training facility, the reporter’s website would only be allowed to air a total of 45 seconds worth of footage. Why the discrepancy? The National Football League has recently announced that it will begin limiting online sources to 45 seconds per day of audio and video footage recorded on NFL property. After 24 hours, this footage must be removed and the segments have to link back to and the pertinent team website.

For a lot of the print newspapers that have had to rely more and more on their electronic format for revenue, this seems like a pretty severe blow, but hardly a death knell. A talented group of writers can draw tons of readers through more creative online content. I would certainly hope that in the realm of everyday team coverage, a football fan would be able to find more sophisticated coverage among the professional sports writers of the newspapers than in the blog world or on the team websites. If not, then they probably shouldn’t be professional sports writers.

As for the NFL, it should come as no surprise to the readers of this blog that I believe the NFL is completely within their rights to limit video and audio broadcast of their product online. They have also not interfered with the online newspapers’ ability to broadcast interviews with players and coaches that are not recorded on NFL property. Any newspaper looking for video clips only needs to place a reporter and a camera in a strip club or gun shop right outside the team’s training facility and wait. Having had the opportunity myself to hang out with NFL stars in this environment leads me to believe that they can be much more engaging and interesting from a fan’s perspective. This example was mainly inserted for humor…mainly, but it shows that just maybe there would be a creative way for online newspapers to provide their readers with content that the NFL could not limit.

Those that are most upset about this new rule keep rambling on about how the NFL would not be what it is today without the coverage provided by the print media, but perhaps the NFL, in conjunction with most other major sports, could say the same thing. But that’s all history now. The NFL has a new television network, and every team has its own website. Times have changed, and there really isn’t anything that the NFL needs from the print media (this point can be argued, but that seems to be how the league feels) in order for its fans to be updated with current information. Fans in other arenas have begun to move their patronage elsewhere as well. Have you noticed that the stock listings section of your local newspaper has been drastically reduced or disappeared all together? Why would I unfold some big cumbersome piece of paper to find out what yesterday’s close price was whenever I could just go online and get the current price straight from the exchange? The NFL is simply following a trend in the distribution of information, where the middle-men are being taken out more and more. The online print sports guys should take a cue from their business page colleagues. Just because they don’t print the stock listings anymore, doesn’t mean they have to quit their job. I read the Wall Street Journal (online) religiously every day, and I pay a sizable sum for it. I don’t do it because that’s where I can find security prices, I do it because they write interesting articles and provide me with valuable insight that I use to make decisions both at home and at work. Put more simply, intelligent writing will attract readers more than video clips.

If the newspapers do decide to push what little leverage they have in this situation, they can simply forget to report whenever one of the NFL players does something for charity (having lived in St. Louis during the Warner years, the purchase of a home for a low-income family was an everyday occurrence), or they could report a whole lot whenever a player gets busted driving drunk in possession of a firearm.

All in all, I doubt this new rule has much effect on anything. The NFL can do whatever it wants. It really isn’t worth speculating whether or not this is a good business decision on the part of the league…Never mind, I speculate that this is probably a pretty good business decision for the league. They lose nothing while at the same time providing their sponsors with exclusivity. The newspapers have to realize, that anyone can make “online news,” I’m doing it right now, but as far as competition is concerned, I am setting the bar pretty low.

E-mail us

1 comment:

John said...

Certainly the NFL may limit what is done on their property.

Were a reporter not on NFL property, but observing something occuring on NFL property, may the reporter then have unlimited rebroadcast rights of that? In this situation, the NFL has permitted light and sound waves to exit its property.

Also, suppose a stadium is publicly owned and a clip of a post-game press conference is on the internet. A publicly owned stadium could stipulate that all interviews conducted on the property have unlimited rebroadcast rights. I think the NFL's response would be interesting.

Another (ultimately losing, I think) proposition is for newspapers etc. to refuse to cover the NFL until their reporters are compensated by the NFL, as every story about the NFL is publicity for the league. News about the NFL is less credible, I think, when the only people asking questions all get their checks from the NFL or from a team.