Blogging has its limits in the SEC

The Southeastern Conference is seeking to control how many blog posts or, presumably, even Twitter updates, can be done during a football game as well as control even video from press conferences.

The more restrictive rules disclosed Friday are in the credential agreements journalists covering SEC games must sign for press passes that allow photographers and videographers on the sidelines and writers in the press box.

The new policy is more restrictive on what “real-time” coverage is and the SEC terms say only it can decide if a blog is violating “real-time” coverage rules. Would find the experience of reading a blog during a game similar to the real-time radio broadcast or  televised coverage? Not me.

Auburn University’s version of the agreement says three in-game accounts (stories, blog posts or Tweets and text messages, too, presumably) are allowed per quarter and one at halftime, but the SEC terms don’t seem to be that specific.

The Auburn University version of the agreement says:

While the game is in progress, the use of textual statistical information is time-delayed and limited in amount (e.g., updates pertaining to score, injuries and national, conference or institutional record-breaking performances, a condensed half-time story) so that the Bearer’s internet or online game coverage does not undercut the authorized and rights-paying fee organization’s right to play-by-play accounts of the game and/or exclusivity as to such rights. For football, these submissions are limited to three per quarter and one at halftime.

Time limits on when video clips can be shown and how long clips can be also are part of the agreement. (The Auburn credentials agreement limits videos to three minutes or less.)

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

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.

Here is a PDF of the new terms and conditions.

What a reporter or photographer can do at game has raised concerns before from media organizations that regularly cover member-school games, but in most cases, the SEC schools have employed more common-sense than lawyerese in balancing the rights of the television and radio networks (which pay a princely sum for the rights to the games) with the evolving technologies of the Internet.

Hopefully, this is not an effort, as it has been with some international sports organizations, to own every use of the games.

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  1. Absolutely amazing. These organizations are going to regulate themselves into obscurity. Think about it, reading a liveblog or following gametweets is not an alternative to watching the game… it is an enhancement. If the game is on the TV – and the coverage is better than horrible, people will watch. But, give it blog coverage and tweets and – who knows – maybe MORE people will watch with their laptops or mobile devices at their side.
    These organizations need to realize that media is what it is. They can’t control it, they can only opt in or opt out. As a brand, or in this case a collection of brands (conference member universities) I’d be livid if someone was going to risk my brand’s ability to be in all media.
    It’s almost like it is a race for irrelevance.
    And NFL – set up tweeting stations for the sidelines. You might actually get me to watch.

  2. Absolutely amazing. These organizations are going to regulate themselves into obscurity.
    Football became the biggest sport in the United States at a time when a grand total of three television networks existed. Baseball had accomplished the same thing in an era when next-day newspapers were the predominant media form. The lack of ten-gazillion “real time” sources didn’t hurt these sports.
    A “race for irrelevance”? I mean, what do you think is going to happen here, exactly? The WNBA will cunningly adopt a more generous tweeting policy, thus allowing it to supplant college football in popularity?
    It isn’t hard to understand the SEC’s motivation. A sports league’s most valuable asset is its rights package. And exclusivity is what makes that package valuable. Ultimately, that exclusivity is what ESPN (or whoever) is purchasing. Protecting that exclusivity means protecting the asset’s sales value.
    There’s a side argument to be had here, too, regarding your notion that more exposure = more popularity. Any skilled PR professional will tell you it isn’t so cut and dried. There are popularity thresholds that get crossed where “being in all media” can actually be detrimental. There’s a reason that, say, Mick Jagger doesn’t agree to interviews with every backwoods newspaper in the land.
    The SEC is the Rolling Stones. Its health doesn’t hinge on the Peanutville Daily Observer posting real-time scores on the web (especially when a web user can get them from the Officially Sanctioned, Mega Bucks-Paying Sports Portal™ that bought the rights).

  3. With the arms race the schools are engaged in to be competitive (i.e. coaches’ salaries, top-line facilities), they still need a lot of marketing support to keep the fans enthused and in the stands. Every game isn’t a sellout these days. Restricting the “podunk” media to just covering player arrests (the wide reach of the SEC hasn’t grasped the rights to police records, yet), wouldn’t appear to be the smartest strategy ever devised.

  4. An addendum to the point about popularity thresholds, by way of example:
    Professional soccer is on a major growth trajectory in the United States. But it is still below the “omnipotent” threshold. And so MLS maintains a very generous access philosophy. It has not instituted rigorous coverage restrictions — it will take all the attention it can get.
    England’s Premier League, on the other hand, has adopted very stringent policies, similar to the SEC regulations we’re discussing here. That’s because it already exists in the big-time sphere. It doesn’t need an “anything we can get” approach like MLS. It has more to gain by protecting exclusivity than by welcoming every kind of attention in every nook and cranny.
    These aren’t stupid people, whether at the offices of the SEC or MLS. They understand the terrain. Now, that doesn’t automatically mean they always make proper decisions, or that we can’t debate the merits. But I guess I just get irritated by this undertone of “stupid clueless dinosaurs” that seems to crop up whenever an institution does something unfavored by the tech-evangelism, information-must-be-free crowd. There’s a vague entitlement vibe to it.

  5. A sports league’s most valuable asset is the fan, especially the rabid fan. Without fans those rights packages are worthless.

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