Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sign of the Times in Media

Couldn't help but notice this gem of a story about sports media. Turns out The Washington Post has subtly changed the name of the blog that covers the NFL team based out of their fair city.

Here's the skinny from Dan Steinberg of the Post, who notes that the team asked the newspaper to rename its blog, which was called "R******s Insider" (sorry, but we don't want to get in trouble here). The paper now calls its blog "Football Insider," which should incense officials in the National Football League.

After all, you're stretching the brand and potentially damaging the NFL name.

For such a crappy football organization to spend time worrying about something like this is kind of funny.

Steinberg unloaded in his blog post about the move.

Well, that’s cool. Well played, Washington Football Team. I only wish the Washington Nationals, Capitals and Wizards were as forward-thinking about protecting their brands from the scarcy specters of the Nationals Journal, Capitals Insider and Wizards Insider Web logs.

This is not the only shot being fired by sports teams or organizations at the media.

The WIAA happens to be embroiled in their own controversy.

And lawsuit.

The case stems from an agreement between the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, which represents high schools, and a video production company called American Hi-Fi. The contract gives the company the right to stream high school sports events in Wisconsin over the Internet.

The agreement, however, precludes newspapers and other media organizations around the state from freely streaming the games themselves. To do so, they must first get a license from the WIAA, which charges as much as $1,500 per game for the privilege. A Wisconsin newspaper owned by McLean-based Gannett Co. challenged these restrictions as a violation of its First Amendment rights, prompting the WIAA to go to court last year to seek a declaratory judgment.

A federal district court decided in the WIAA’s favor last year. “Ultimately this is a case about commerce, not the right to a free press,” the court wrote in its decision. “The principal reason the WIAA granted an exclusive license to stream its games over the internet is not to promote discourse, but to create and grow an additional source of revenue.”

That is indeed why the WIAA says its contract with American Hi-Fi is exclusive; by giving the company “exclusive” rights to the games, it increases the value of the rights, much like an NFL or Olympics TV deal. WIAA spokesman Todd Clark says the streaming contract is part of a package of sponsorships that raise about $300,000 a year for the association. “Instead of raising ticket prices so that they’re unaffordable for families,” he said, “we chose to [offset expenses] through these contracts.”

This is a dangerous line for sports organizations to cross. Revenue is important, but so is the media's right to report on the events. The threat of raising ticket prices -- as if that's the only other source of revenue for the WIAA -- is kind of comical. It's not like the games cost much now, and raising ticket prices a couple bucks across the board isn't suddenly going to take a half-full arena and make it less than that. The people that want to go will still go.

1 comment:

Donald Dunlop said...

I don't think you'll often find organizations infringing on "freedom of the press" when real news happens. However, lets be honest ... a continuous stream of a high school event that has been licensed to a third-party is patently not coverage of news.

As to the Redskins request, it probably can be seen as tacky but columns and blogs etc that ply their trade using the teams name that they cover are in a clear sense piggybacking on that name recognition. They benefit financially from the association. I know you recognize that this is why you see so many media/sports organizations with "co-marketing" agreements.

With loads and loads of blogs and newspapers covering the Redskins isn't it their right to align their name with selected or preferred outlets? Clearly they aren't going to try to make the guy stop using their nickname (as offensive as it is) in his coverage. They just are choosing to not allow him free use of that name in his title.

I see no real problem here and I'm not one to take the side of any hegemonic interest like the NFL or one of their members.