College-controlled content collides with traditional media coverage
Broadcast rights are one thing, but some in the media think it may be more about old-fashioned competition. Seattle Times sports editor Don Shelton told shermanreport.com his paper's relationship with the University of Washington as antagonistic and "it's not a partnership at all."Washington employs its own writer who tweets on his own account during games and the school hosts live chats during the week – something a Seattle Times reporter was doing until the school said such activities infringed on its broadcast rights."We started doing live chats almost every day at noon and had beat reporters do it, and the University of Washington liked it, so they did it themselves then stopped the Seattle Times, [saying] it infringed on broadcasting rights," Shelton told shermanreport.com. "It's not a partnership at all; it's definitely an antagonistic relationship."New media has redefined that relationship between traditional media outlets and the teams they cover. They are both seeking to reach their audiences with exclusive content on their own platforms. The "need" for schools to get media coverage – which formed that original partnership – is obsolete.
The rights to broadcasting those events--be it via television, radio and now the internet--have belonged to the schools and conferences. For championship events sponsored by the NCAA, those rights belong to the league. Those broadcast rights are worth billions.
Enter the advent of social media and the traditional relationship changes. The same sports journalists that the schools relied on to provide coverage--and to whom they granted incredible access--are now seen as competitors when they "live tweet" or "live blog" an event.
At what point does live tweeting and blogging become a competitor? If you tweet too much or update the live blog too often, are you seriously infringing on the school or conference right to provide live coverage?
As Ramos points out, both the institutions and the media are constantly looking for new ways to engage and inform their audiences. Both have taken to social media as a way to do so. If a reporter with 40,000 followers on Twitter is providing more frequent coverage of a live event than the school's twitter feed with around 16,000 then the reporter's reach might be seen as a threat to the school's ability to draw a greater following.
Frankly, until someone figures out how to monetize a twitter feed this issue isn't going to cause a big storm. Yes, some fans may elect to follow a twitter feed rather than tune or log into a broadcast. And yes, the feed with the greater reach and credibility is probably going to get more action than the smaller one.
It's only when those billions in revenues are threatened--or when a new source of revenue draws competition--that things can start getting hairy. The Washington beat writer who received the reprimand might next see his credentials yanked for tweeting too much. At that point, Mr. Sports Reporter becomes no more influential than the Average Joe watching the game from the stands, on TV or the internet.
Social media is changing how fans get information. That's as true in sports as it is in politics and pop culture. The question is how these changes will affect the depth and quality of the information they get.
May you live in interesting times, indeed.