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Leagues See Bloggers in the Bleachers as a Threat

KEN BELSON and TIM ARANGO The New York Times 19.08.2009 22:29
Tim Tebow, shaking hands, led Florida to a national title last season. Florida has scores of Web sites following its program.

Tim Tebow, shaking hands, led Florida to a national title last season. Florida has scores of Web sites following its program.

Camera phones, hand-held video cameras and social networking sites like Twitter have turned sports fans with Web sites into instant reporters and broadcasters. But one of the nation’s leading college leagues is drawing a line in the turf.

The Southeastern Conference, home to some of the nation’s most prominent and lucrative university athletic programs, has issued rules in the past week prohibiting fans from distributing photographs or video of its games in real time for commercial use. Like a growing number of pro and college teams nationwide, the conference sees money to be made online from the exploits of its athletes.

The rules are aimed not at the casual fan who might post a few pictures of Saturday’s football game on a personal Web site, but rather those who copy television broadcasts, create their own highlight reels and post them on sites charging for access or advertising.

That is no small number. Prominent teams can each have hundreds of unofficial fan Web sites, some updated and visited around the clock. The University of Florida’s Gators, who compete in the Southeastern Conference and claimed last season’s national championship in football, have attracted scores of sites, like Gator Sports Nation and Alligator Army, which trade in all manner of news and rumor related to the program.

Leagues and teams at many levels have tried to restrict how their games are covered while also creating their own thriving media divisions. That has already pitted them against traditional news media outlets, like newspapers and radio stations, for readers and listeners and advertising dollars. Now, they are trying to curtail rabid fans who run Web sites devoted to the teams they love — or hate.


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