An SEC Shocker: Digitally-Enabled Fans Run Up The Score On Flatfooted Conference

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is trying to restrict the use of social media by its core constituency–its fans.
According to Michael Kruse of St. Petersburg Times:

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.
A conference spokesman said this policy was meant to try to keep as many eyeballs as possible on ESPN and CBS — which are paying the SEC $3 billion for the broadcast rights to the conference’s games over the next 15 years.

Steve Bryant of NBCChicago says, “Like the record companies, the SEC can’t possibly change learned social behavior simply by mandating it. They can’t even adequately police infractions.”
Granted, the ruling can not be enforced. But why is it there in the first place? Does the SEC not have a clue? Well, that seems obvious. Yet, Kruse wisely points out that the SEC does understand social media and technical innovation–that’s why they want to get a jump on the problem before all 90,000 fans at a Florida vs. Auburn game have mobile video devices (a.k.a. phones) capable of sending competitive non-monetized live feeds to the world.
“The idea that people can’t capture their own lived experience is a losing proposition,” according to Clay Shirky. Which is true, so the SEC stands to lose this battle. But for me, the very idea that it’s a battle baffles my mind. I know it should not surprise or riddle, but it does. Of course, there’s nothing unique about the powers that be doing everything they can do maintain their grip on things, but there is a better way. You simply incorporate the innovations and let them work for you, not against. This is so obvious and I guess that’s why I’m taken aback by the news.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Dumbest thing I have ever heard. Don’t make rules you can’t enforce. The SEC now looks greedy and clueless. Fans will laugh at the sheer audacity of the notion.

  2. Editor and Publisher has more on this story and how the conference is intent on limiting not just fans, but journalists and the pubs they work for.
    Take a look at how deep the restrictions go:

    * No use by newspapers of video and audio game highlights on their Web sites.
    * Time-limited restrictions on use of post-game and pre-game video and audio.
    * Photographs may only be used online as part of regular news coverage, not for other purposes, archives or sale.
    * The SEC and its universities must be granted licensing privileges to use newspaper images for their own news coverage and other uses.
    * No blogging on newspaper Web sites of game events during games.

    In other words, a college sports conference is challenging the news industry’s right to its own intellectual property.
    Not good.