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The NFL & Highlights on Social Media

From an emerging media standpoint, the 2016 season has been a trying one for the National Football League and its 32 teams. The league has implemented new social media policies that have been met with a great deal of discontentment from teams and fans. The main point of controversy this season has been the ability for teams to post game highlights within the “game window” – from kickoff until one hour after the game.

In October, ESPN detailed the league’s new policy; stating that teams “can't take highlights of what happens on the field and make it their own by using their own video or posting highlights from television directly to social media. Teams also can't turn highlights into animated GIFs.”

After just seven weeks, the NFL implemented yet another policy change following backlash from teams and fans. The new policy allows teams to post within the game window, but still prohibits team accounts from posting game highlights until after the league has already done so on their own social media accounts.

The NFL’s intentions in these policies are relatively clear. The league owns the copyright to game broadcasts and in an ideal world, would be able to control the dissemination of videos, GIFs, and other content through their own channels. However, is the league’s determination to control that flow of content potentially detrimental to the fan experience?

Most fans of NFL teams don’t identify themselves as NFL fans; they identify themselves of fans of certain teams. By following the NFL’s social media channels, fans have the opportunity to see some content specific to their team, but they also get content from the other 31 teams. However, by following their team’s channels, fans get more tailored content.

With this in mind, when the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, or any other team post a highlight as a video or GIF, their hope is to share a highlight as it happened for the enjoyment of their fans and to create social media chatter around their game. The social media managers for NFL teams are savvy individuals and look to stay ahead of the curve, and many were posting GIFs and videos well before the league laid out specific guidelines in their social media policies.

Now, the NFL’s argument is that once a highlight has been shared on their channels, the teams are welcome to share it on theirs. Unfortunately, this leaves one glaring issue: what happens if the NFL never posts it on their channel? Must the team wait until the “game window” has closed? At that point, the social media chatter around a particular highlight will be gone.

www.twitter.com/NFL

With this in mind, when the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, or any other team post a highlight as a video or GIF, their hope is to share a highlight as it happened for the enjoyment of their fans and to create social media chatter around their game. The social media managers for NFL teams are savvy individuals and look to stay ahead of the curve, and many were posting GIFs and videos well before the league laid out specific guidelines in their social media policies.

Now, the NFL’s argument is that once a highlight has been shared on their channels, the teams are welcome to share it on theirs. Unfortunately, this leaves one glaring issue: what happens if the NFL never posts it on their channel? Must the team wait until the “game window” has closed? At that point, the social media chatter around a particular highlight will be gone.

While the NFL’s commitment to its brand and content is admirable, the league is failing to take new technologies into account when crafting their policies. The distribution of digital content has changed drastically simply in the past two years. NFL teams and fans alike can only hope the league starts getting ahead of the changing tide of technology rather than attempting to catch up in vain.

Michelle Manza @michellemanzo

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University