Aug 19, 2009 at 05:48 PM
written by Michael Munson

Opportunity is Knocking. Will Anyone Answer?

The big news this week was the SEC’s release of its new media policy. This should not be confused with its “new media” policy. No, the SEC took steps to ensure it didn’t really have a “new media” policy, by essentially recoiling into the comfort zone that is the status quo, with its new media policy. Namely, it wants to protect the interests of its media partners and their advertisers, by adhering to the quaint concept of big rights fees for major sports properties. It doesn’t want anyone to reproduce, rebroadcast, or re-sell not only game footage produced by broadcast rights holders, but it wants to prohibit any fan in the stands from disseminating any description or images from the games to anybody via any device.

The irony is thick here. Think about it. These media partners and advertisers rely on the fact the property content attracts eyeballs and attention. Yet these same interests are trying to erect barriers to fans consuming the content the way they want it consumed. Turning off your biggest fans that will promote you on their own, is not the most prudent way to maximize revenue. Just look at what happened to the music business when it tried to stop music from being distributed for free. Sure it sued a relative handful of people for stealing, but it eventually gave up on stopping free music because, simply stated, it can’t be stopped. It’s like the scene from Star Wars when Princess Leia tells Grand Moff Tarkin “the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” Just replace “star systems” with “copy righted material.”

One could say allowing fans to virtually broadcast the games themselves via video recording on a mobile device – as the SEC policy clearly suggests the SEC fears might happen - might put at risk the easy way to collect eyeballs that CBS, ESPN, and the SEC syndicators are accustomed to feeding off. One may be right, too. But, just because we have always done something a certain way, does that mean we will forever? The reality is the changes in technology are like evolutionary forces. If evolution dictated we wouldn’t use typewriters anymore, why shouldn’t new media business models that harness technology, rather than thwart it, be realized?

The point here is rather than thinking about how old paradigms are threatened by new ways, think about how new ways can help realize new paradigms. It may seem antithetical to business, but it could very well be that giving content away could in fact lead to more revenue. It surely will be difficult, but we all are highly adaptive and fully capable of forcing ourselves to come up with solutions to problems, especially if our survival depends on it. The technology “genie” can never be put back in the bottle, so it makes much more sense to figure out how to harness it than it does to try to run from it.

Sponsorship is perfectly suited to engaging with fans on a one-to-one basis, and technology is perfectly designed to facilitate such relationships. Given this, it makes all the sense in the world for properties to explore and develop ways their content can be used as a driving force to create and sustain relationships with their audiences and marketing partners. A property’s biggest asset is its audience. Anything that can be done to grow the audience and feed its passion will make the property more valuable to marketers wanting to reach that audience. That knock you hear is the opportunity to re-think how the digital assets of properties can be leveraged into online engagements that drive audience satisfaction, business for sponsors, and property value. Are you ready to answer?

Mike can be reached by email at [email protected] and on Twitter at @mjmunson. View all of Mike's previous posts.