Media, Sports

The “No Fun League” Is Trying to Live Up to Its Rep

Recently, Mashable obtained a memo the National Football League (NFL) office sent to its teams announcing restrictions on social media coverage of games.

In the memo, the NFL stated teams that use  “unapproved video during games” would be fined $25,000 for a first offense, $50,000 for a second, and any infraction thereafter will draw a fine of up to $100,000 as well as “loss of rights to post League-Controlled Content (including game footage).”

Why is the league doing this? The theory floating out there is that the NFL wants to drive attention to official NFL accounts, instead of social media accounts operated by the teams.

Note to the NFL: People are fans of players and teams, not leagues.

This reminds me of when the league cut down on touchdown celebrations. All of the new rules prompted many fans to lament that NFL was starting to stand for “No Fun League” instead of “National Football League.”

But that’s not all. The coming restrictions allegedly won’t just cover game footage. According to a Mashable source, during a conference call it was explained that the league crackdown applies to “anything that moves,” including GIFs from previous games of players celebrating and even pop culture GIFs, such as anything remotely relevant like a quote from a TV show or movie. The restrictions would reportedly be relaxed during the week.

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But it’s not just the NFL. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) were very heavy-handed during the Rio Games in having GIFs removed from social media sites.

It seems so counter-intuitive. You have people wanting to interact with your product, but you’re taking steps to keep them from doing so and could potentially harm your relationship with them?

Believe me, as a content creator myself, I understand the need to protect intellectual property. However, in the vast majority of the uses, these GIFs, Vines, and other short clips are being used in non-revenue generating ways. These aren’t instances in which people are taking the footage or images and using them in a way they can profit financially from it.

It seems like a number of higher-ups at many sports leagues are struggling to adapt to the new age of media consumption. It’s a generation built upon creation. So many people, especially the so-often talked about and targeted “Millenials,” have their own outlets. Be it a blog, a full blown website, a podcast, a web channel, or even something as simple as an Instagram or Twitter profile, content is made by virtually everyone as a part of everyday life.

It used to be that the only engagement media consumers had with their entertainment was to solely view it. That’s not the case anymore. This is a participatory time. People often watch TV with a “second screen” ready to add-on, or augment, their experience.

Getting back to the NFL specifically, it’s well-documented that its ratings — while still at the top of the list — have been down this season. Instead of focusing on social media though, maybe the league would be better served to take a look at its product when it comes to its ratings decline.

As many fans and onlookers have noted, the games themselves have declined in quality the past few seasons. Not to mention, some fans might be weary of the NFL after a stretch of constant controversy featuring legal issues and the ethics of the sport in general. However, if the games are good, people will typically watch regardless of what’s going on around the sport.

The NFL, and other sports leagues, need to remember sports are entertainment. I remember saying to myself recently, “oh, I didn’t watch any games today,” on a Sunday night following a weekend in which I tuned out on NFL football because Netflix was more entertaining.

People have many, many more entertainment options now than they had 20, 10, even 5 years ago. Why voluntarily shut off a touch point? Surely there has to be a way for sports leagues’ desire and right to have control over their intellectual property to co-exist with the desire of fans to create what essentially is fan-art.

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