Deadspin's twitter account gets suspended, and everyone flips. When the popular consensus sides with quite possibly the internet's most divisive sports website, eyebrows are raised. Then, SB Nation's GIF handle, which is solely responsible for tweeting out GIF's and Vines of recent moments was also suspended. Early reports say that MLBAM, MLB's new media arm (now its own company) was responsible but it could be the NFL, or the NHL, or the Premier League, because all sports leagues suffer from this inferiority complex when it comes to the proliferation of their material.
Sure these leagues aren't making money when vines and GIF's of Jack Eichel's brilliance populates twitter like wildfire, or someone doctors Michael Jordan's head onto a coach after his team just spiked the ball on fourth down. But they are getting free publicity, and when something goes viral, it often sticks. MLBAM does a great job posting vines and GIF's themselves, but other leagues do not have the same capabilities, or social media nous. The Premier League is notorious for taking down vines of goals or controversial moments almost immediately after they spread through social media, even though a large majority of their audience can't see the games live (this is the league that prevents TV broadcasts of games in England during a specific window to promote attendance, as if its still 1956).
Emerging forms of media are always going to be faster to the punch than copyright law can even dream of putting a fingernail on. Vines and GIF's are one matter, but what about someone Periscoping warm-ups at a hockey game? The NHL has already banned that from media members, with those streams only coming from the teams or rights holders. What is the NHL losing if the Canucks beat writer periscopes a short warm up to see if a player is taking line rushes? If more people are talking about your product, isn't that a good thing? Isn't going viral supposed to make you more money, and make you more famous?
Someone on the internet got famous for working the checkout line at Target, so it's quite possible that a GIF of Connor McDavid doing Connor McDavid things isn't going to be that harmful to the NHL's bottom line.
Leagues establishing progressive policies towards social media and working with websites like Deadspin and SB Nation to establish guidelines for vines, GIF's periscopes, snapchat and whatever the next hot app is the way to not only build trust with your fans, but extend your reach even further. Non sports fans may see the crazy monkey-riding-dog GIF on social media if they weren't banned, limiting the reach of who could see the GIF of the amazing athletic accomplishments.
Some leagues, like MLB, the NFL and the Premier League don't comprehend where the audience is growing the largest and fastest and how to reach them. TV plays a huge role, but it's importance is being shared by social media. There might not be a way to monetize GIF's of diving catches, or sick shootout goals, or Odell Beckham catches galore, but they can lead to new eyeballs flocking to your product, meaning the money will keep rolling in otherwise. That 12 hour wait to see a crazy Mike Trout catch means the window for viral spreading has already long been shut, no matter how fancy or official the product is. The formula isn't that hard to solve.
This goes for old game footage on Youtube or anything of the like around the internet. Its vastness and reach goes beyond that of TV, the newspaper, radio and conventional websites. Once something goes viral, there is no taking it back, and wouldn't leagues want that in spades? TV networks are embracing the viral and second screen experience and they're hemorrhaging money compared to sports leagues. If the NBA can crack the code and let social media and copyright co-exist, why can't everyone else?
These leagues are costing themselves money for every DMCA claim they peddle.
For further reading, go to Lookout Landing on SB Nation when they had issues with MLBAM DMCA claims earlier this year, or or this article from Complex about the NBA's progressive attitude.
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