I’m a big fan of recurring jokes and one of my favorites revolves around hockey. See here in Chicago we have a professional hockey team but we can’t watch it on local TV because the owner feels that broadcasting games would be bad for ticket sales. You can understand his argument considering that’s exactly what basketball, baseball and football leagues do, except that it’s not. So I make jokes about not even knowing what Tom and others are talking about when they mention hockey since it’s not something I usually even have the option of watching in the background and I chuckle to myself because my goodness am I witty.
It seems, though, that the NFL is taking a similar stance when it comes to online video. The league announced news organizations cannot post video longer than 45 seconds online, something meant to protect the interests (read: “web traffic”) of the league’s member teams, a policy that not even the NHL has in place. Quite the opposite, the other professional leagues allow for unlimited use by news organizations of video online. The NFL, though, wants to drive people to team sites where they’re the ones who have sold advertising and where people are just a couple clicks away from buying branded items.
I have no problem with a corporate entity wanting to protect assets it feels are valuable but there comes a point, as any parent will tell you, where you have to ask if you’ve crossed the line into smothering. Occasionally content has to run free, has to scrape its knees and has to meet new people. By restricting usage of video on news sites, the NFL is doing little but making sure content never gets misused but I don’t know if they fully realize that they run the risk of that content not being used at all.
As usual when a corporate entity attempts to over-control the media it’s the customer that loses. Fans, instead of being able to see NFL video on a news site will have to go to their team’s site, where the reporting will likely be less journalistic than that from a news organization.
What’s also interesting to me is how the NFL is repositioning itself from being a sports league to being a content producer, the equivalent of a Hollywood movie studio. There are actually a number of parallels since the studios, too, want to exercise total control over how their content is exhibited and viewed. This in contract to niche producers like Vuguru, the company behind the online series “Prom Queen,” and others that seem to believe it’s not where the content is viewed that is important but the the content itself that rules all.
“How does this impact my audience’s experience?” is a question all content producers should be asking themselves as they map out online strategies and then decisions made based on, not despite, the answers to that question.