Essence of SEC New Media Policy What Content Owners Need

The SEC partnered with XOS Technologies last month to form the SEC Digital Network, and the conference didn’t execute the deal for charity purposes – they intend to generate revenue, potentially lots of it. Put aside the mega 15-year television rights packages with ESPN and CBS Sports, the SEC, as many major college conferences do, have many hours of valuable content that never make it to air on major networks, plus they retain digital rights to almost all of the content that involves any of the schools.

At a high-level, the conference cracked down on the amount of digital content media outlets have access to and what they can do with it. The goal appears to limit non-exclusive independent media coverage (i.e. bloggers) and to control the legal use of its content, akin to how MLBAM manages MLB content. Did we mention that MLBAM is by far the most successful digital outlet in sports? No coincidence. Media outlets can complain all they want, instead they should takes notes on how to control content, make it valuable, and earn revenue from it.

Instead of complaining, media organizations should look to partner with the SEC Digital Network. The SEC has essentially created a market for its content by limiting the supply, wiping the slate clean for competition, and understanding the demand. Next, the conference can carve the content up in numerous different ways – by sport, by type of content (highlights, press conferences, player interviews, coaches shows, etc.) and auction access to it, for lack of a better word. Make the media outlets pay to gain access to it, perhaps different access for local (to each school) and national media, but the key is to issue fewer licenses than exist media outlets. Basic economics, limit the supply to make it more valuable. This would monetize the content up front, providing what amounts to a monopoly rent to the conference since fans of each school demand the content and no alternatives exist. Can you replace Florida Gator highlights with anything else in Gainesville, or replace Alabama highlights with another team or conference? Not unless you want riots.

Now the content license holders – newspapers, local news, national magazines, whoever it may be – have the opportunity to charge subscriptions, package the content in any way they want, be innovative, and run a media business. Fans will have no grounds to complain. If they want access bad enough, they will the pay the price, if not then they will be satisfied with the national linear television coverage.

As for bloggers, of which I am one and am generally an advocate for, nothing changes. You can bid for the exclusive license and make it a real business that competes with newspapers and TV, or you can pay the subscription fees and write second hand recounts, as most currently do. Everyone can still post opinions. However, the limited supply of professional content will further differentiate what’s true journalism and what’s citizen journalism.

This scenario includes many hypothetical scenarios, however its an example of how content owners can monetize content. Implementing paid online content using major college sports, where fanatical demand exists, is an easier place to start than local news or Page 6 gossip. Another step in the process, left for another discussion, is how the SEC would crackdown on illegal use of video and photos, and where they draw the line between UGC and illegal use. The SEC is on to something, now I want to see them carry it through into revenue.

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