SEC Rethinks TwitterFail, but iPhone Ban Looming? 6


Are you a Florida Gator fan planning on tweeting your way to a Tebow-led, perfect season? Well, luckily, it seems you’ll be able to tweet from The Swamp this year. However, you soon may have to leave your mobile phone at home. The SEC is revising one of the most ludicrous social media policies to date, which was seeking to ban tweeting, facebooking and mobile video taking from the stands of college football games this year.

From the St. Petersburg Times last weekend:

“The SEC, one of college sports’ biggest, richest, most prominent conferences, earlier this month sent to its 12 schools an eye-opening new media policy. It places increasingly stringent limits on reporters and how much audio, video and “real-time” blogging they can do at games, practices and news conferences.

But even more interesting is that the policy also includes rules for fans in the stands. No updating Twitter feeds. No taking photos with phones and posting them on Facebook or Flickr. No taking videos and putting them on YouTube.”

The reasoning behind this move you ask? The SEC wants to keep eyes on televisions, given the $3 billion deal they made with ESPN and CBS to exclusively cover SEC football games.

However, Jeff Edler of the Charlotte Observer notes today that the SEC is planning to relax its Facebook and Twitter bans, which would have been completely un-inforcebable in a crowd of 90,000 college students. The real hot button issue among SEC officials is obviously video and even pictures being distributed over the Internet from the stands of games. This practice will likely remain off-limits to ticketed fans, while “text” policies will be relaxed.

This, of course, is equally hard to police with thousands of fans equipped with iPhones and other video-ready, smart phones, which can snap high-quality video at a moments notice. In fact, it could lead to an all-together ban on mobile phones at all sporting events down the road. Remember, the US Open banned all mobile phones from one of the nation’s most prestigious golfing events earlier this year.

In truth, the SEC and other sporting associations are battling the same issues that “old media” are battling, as they try to continue the long-standing practice of awarding lucrative, exclusive deals with television networks. Exclusivity is no longer an option in the digital age and you wonder how long incumbents will try to fight it.

Why not try to embrace the media shift with SEC-owned digital properties, which aggregate video and other content from the stands – bringing in online advertising revenue? What if the SEC partnered with ESPN, CBS and a corporate sponsor to do something similar to what the NCAA did with AT&T during March Madness? Maybe a similar type of mash-up for a paid YouTube channel?

I’d look at the uptick of mobile video from the stands as an opportunity rather than competition for these associations and conferences. What rapid SEC football fan is going to sit around on their computer at home waiting for the most recent tweet or online video uploaded from the stands as an alternative to watching Tebow run all-over secondaries on a 42 inch, HD screen? Not me.

If anything, I’m going to be watching that screen, with the computer in my lap to catch other reactions to the play. I’m not alone. Men between the ages of 15 – 29 spend somewhere between 16-22 minutes each day with a laptop in their hands while watching television (likely sports). Here’s guessing that number dramatically increases over weekends (during sporting events) and throughout Fantasy Football season.

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