But, but, but…

There are many people throwing penalty flags at the NFL over recent rules governing who can do what with their product. The league has banned local TV news photographers from the sidelines, limited media use of game video to 45-seconds total, and now is requiring sideline photographers to wear sponsor-logoed vests. Every other professional sports league is watching this, so the ramifications are troubling for traditional media, to say the least.

A lot of people think the NFL is being absurd. After all, didn’t television, newspapers and magazines “make” the NFL what it is today? Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

But that same logic can be said for the television network affiliate system, and look where that’s headed.

So rather than write about how silly it is to have photographers dressed like NASCAR drivers or the unfairness of it all or the ethics involved, I think it’s important to look at where this is all headed in the Media 2.0 world.

We must always remember the central theme of Media 2.0 — that anybody can be a media company in a distributed, fragmented, disintermediated, and technologically-friendly scenario. No set of traditions or rules or values or principles that existed previously apply. This is why it’s so very hard for mainstream media companies — who’ve made their mark following precepts and traditions previously thought immune to disruption — to really enter the Media 2.0 world.

The NFL is now a media company, and it doesn’t care who objects. It doesn’t care, because it doesn’t have to care. People can increasingly get to its games or highlights via its own cable network or online initiatives. If the networks (they’re not really networks anymore) want to carry games, the price will keep going up until the numbers just don’t work anymore. When that happens, the NFL media machine will simply sell ads on its own and keep the money that used to go to television.

It’s also useful in this discussion to point out that the symbiotic relationship between television and the NFL is one that benefits both. As much as broadcasters can claim that their efforts built the league, the league can also say its games built or helped build the networks and their affiliates. The networks need the games to provide eyeballs to which they can promote their program line-ups, and this is a big reason why they’re willing to pay so much money for rights. Local broadcasts of preseason games are big money-makers for the stations, and shows with the coach or Sunday night sports programs bring in large dollars, too. So it’s naïve to suggest that the relationship has benefited one over the other.

Professional sports is a big content business, one that people are accustomed to paying for. The NFL regularly sells out stadiums, and it’s likely the next step will be pay-per-view, followed by ad-supported pay-per-view. The movie industry has proven that we’ll sit through commercials to watch a film from a seat we just paid $10 to occupy.

The traditional media world is being torn apart by disruptions from every quarter, most of it driven by Media 2.0. The challenge isn’t only to extend our brands to every conceivable platform; we simply must find creative ways to participate in the personal media revolution as well.

The NFL horse has left the barn. Who will be next?


  1. While I don’t disagree with you about all companies being in the media business, I wonder if the NFL is over-reaching. It is a media company, yes, but the stadiums in which it plays are subsidized by public financing and taxpayers, in most instances. It also enjoys certain government-gifted exclusions from antitrust regulations that govern other private industries. In exchange for these concessioins and subsidies to the NFL and its teams by “the public,” there will always be “strings attached.” While the ‘business of the NFL’ is private,’ I think courts will have to decide a what level the NFL can erect barriers to news coverage — as opposed to rebroadcast — of the sport.


  1. […] But, but, but… And, related to the above, Terry Heaton extends the conversation, arguing that the NFL, in the Media 2.0 world, is also now media and no longer has to care about the old ways. […]

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