NFL revises its short-sighted social media policy

In October, the National Football League (NFL) announced a new policy to more tightly control its teams’ use of social media, looking for excess posting of video content. Under the terms of the policy, posting of video is heavily regulated during games and the hour preceding games.

Violations of the policy could be harsh, with fines of up to $100,000 and the loss of rights to content shared by the NFL. Why such harsh penalties? One word: money.

NFL ratings are down in 2016. Monday Night Football ratings are down nearly a quarter, and Sunday Night Football and Thursday night game ratings are down by slightly lower but still worrisome double-digit amounts. Given that the television rights to NFL games are a multi-billion dollar business, a sustained ratings decline could eventually harm the league’s cash cow.

While there are a number of potential reasons ratings have dropped so much this year, a lot of the blame has been placed on social media. Thanks to services like Twitter and Facebook, and the rise of video on these platforms, fans no longer need to watch entire games on television to get their football fix. Instead, they can easily learn about or watch the most exciting moments of a game at their convenience through the devices of their choice.

Playing the long game

Following the unveiling of its new policy, numerous NFL teams took to Twitter to troll the league, posting videos taken from a video game and re-enactments of plays using figurines.

Less than two months later, the NFL has apparently come to recognize that its heavy-handed response to its ratings decline might have gone too far. According to a memo obtained by Yahoo Finance, the NFL is upping the number of videos that teams are allowed to post from 8 to 16 per platform per day, including during the “game window.” In addition, teams are now permitted to post non-highlight video to their social accounts before it is available on the NFL server. Previously, teams had to wait to show non-highlight videos, like videos of celebrations, ceremonies and fans.

The NFL is also giving teams more flexibility to use live video. On Snapchat, for instance, teams can post up to five Snaps of live action per game. And on Facebook, YouTube and Periscope, they can broadcast live video of up to 15 minutes up to 15 minutes before game time.

Finally, the league has signed a test agreement with Giphy to make the GIF creation and sharing service “the source of high quality and authentic NFL GIFs of ancillary game and historical/iconic content.”

The NFL’s changes will no doubt be welcomed by the league’s franchises and their fans, and while they won’t solve the NFL’s ratings challenges, it appears the NFL has quickly realized that an anti-social approach to social probably won’t benefit it in the long run.

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