Twitter limit: University of Washington caps live game coverage for media, threatens credential revocation

UPDATE, NOV. 13 3:30 P.M.: We followed up on this story and asked several schools up and down the west coast about their live coverage policies. Read more here.

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It looks like college coaches aren’t the only ones restricting Twitter use. Todd Dybas, a reporter for the Tacoma News Tribune, Tweeted yesterday that he was “reprimanded” by the University of Washington Athletic Department for apparently Tweeting too much during Sunday’s 85-63 win over Loyola.

The UW does indeed have a “Live Coverage Policy” that limits reporters to 20 total in-game updates for basketball games and 45 for football games:

We reached out to the athletic department but the UW folks declined to comment, only saying that the policy was implemented prior to the 2012-’13 athletic competition year.

Here’s some of the reaction on Twitter:

Though the policy has been in effect for a few months, it’s getting some attention now because they’ve actually enforced it. The policy states that the department may revoke a credential if the media member is “producing a real-time description of the contest.”

Seattle University men’s basketball coach Cameron Dollar, a former UW assistant, Tweeted this to Dybas:

By my count, Dybas sent out 53 individual Tweets from tipoff until the final buzzer. A lot of those were simple Tweets like “Wilcox 3,” or “What touch!” that, according to the policy, would count toward the 20 in-game updates.

A little disclaimer: I covered UW sports for four years while a writer for The UW Daily. We loved using Twitter as a way to provide real-time coverage for readers who weren’t watching on television or listening on the radio. I understand that the UW wants to drive fans to the school’s own live coverage and protect its product, but to threaten the loss of credentials because of “excessive” Tweeting seems a little odd.

So, readers, what do you guys think? Do you understand what the UW is doing, or is this an example of exerting too much social media power?

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UPDATE, 4:10 p.m.: Just spoke with Jordan Moore, director of social media for USC. He says that the Trojans have had a similar policy in place for the past three seasons that keeps media from providing play-by-play updates. But they have not had issues with it and have yet to reprimand any reporter for over-Tweeting. Keep in mind that USC is a private school.

“I think just generally speaking is what we’re trying to do is steer people toward partnerships we have with radio, television and our own web presence,” Moore said. “We don’t want people taken way from that experience.”

UPDATE, 3:50 p.m.: Just got off the phone with Craig Pintens, who heads the marketing and public relations for the University of Oregon. He says the school has no live coverage policy and doesn’t have any plans to implement one in the future.

Previously on GeekWire: Washington State football bans players from Twitter

  • http://hark.com David Aronchick

    Hah – this _CERTAINLY_ will be enforceable and encourage great fan program contact. I can see nothing but upside from this action to clamp down on this new media!

  • http://twitter.com/chrisamccoy Chris McCoy

    I guess UW football won’t appreciate this then: http://beta.yoursports.com/plays.

    Makes sense for teams w/major TV right deals. Makes zero sense for teams without.

    We actually negotiated with the team at Twitter for 45 days on lifting API limits for our app.

    Realized play-by-play doesn’t belong on Twitter and it needs its own feed. So we built our own 2nd screen at YourSports. Currently in private beta.

    Will be launching live, social games to the feed in 2013. Content from Plays app will sync into game identities on YS.

    • http://www.paulbalcerak.com/ paulbalcerak

      I disagree: Who on earth is going to skip watching a game on TV to watch a Twitter feed instead? It makes no sense. It’s an old-media move by people who don’t understand how new media works.

      • http://twitter.com/robofhood rob hammond

        You are right, I’m not going to watch a game on Twitter. However, if I notice that the game is happening while I’m on Twitter I’ll probably be more inclined to turn on the TV and watch it.

      • http://twitter.com/chrisamccoy Chris McCoy

        2nd screen very much disrupting the attention economics of the ads on the 1st screen. Depending on which study you cite, 62%-86% of all TV viewers are 2nd screening. This will only continue.

        • jdm8

          I agree. UW trying to slow it down is spitting in the wind at best. It’s their choice, but I only see down sides for this policy, and no up side.

    • http://twitter.com/RonScratch Ron

      Radio rights, not TV is my guess.

  • Forrest Corbett

    Looks like they’re limiting the number of tweets to match the number of points they lose by.

  • Guest

    My taxes subsidize the UW, and as a result, I am entitled to tweet as much as I want about their athletics.

    The UW can threaten to revoke my “credentials,” whatever that means, as long as they’re willing to defend themselves in court. Speaking about sports is not a crime.

    • RTFA

      Uh, this is for reporters who are under contract in order to provide coverage of the game. That’s what “credentials” means. Yes, you can tweet as much as you want because you’re not a reporter.

  • http://twitter.com/westseattleblog West Seattle Blog

    Slippery slope. Imagine all the other news-making venues in which someone could attempt to restrict various forms of outbound communication … Also, this tends to be an unfair prior restraint on the “official” media, while any old game attendee could sit there and tweet like crazy and go unnoticed/unpenalized. We notice this with, for example, photography restrictions at schools: We dutifully photograph backs of kids’ heads since they don’t have media releases, then we notice the mommies and daddies and even school employees have slapped photos all over Facebook (etc.) with no such restrictions, free to be shared wildly. These are transitional times, but the eventual balance will NOT be struck in favor of over-restriction.

  • Joe

    What losers. Glad I don’t claim such an antiquated university as my alma mater :(

  • Aestro

    Stupid move from UW’s part – twitter isn’t competition with television.

    That said, 50+ tweets from one game is an awful lot. Maybe it was just because it was the first game of the season, but I’d be pretty quick to unfollow someone live-tweeting every basketball game, even if they were a good reporter.

  • TweetThis

    And in other news, the UW announced today that it’s licensing the technology that powers the “Great Firewall of China” for it’s campus network. This will help protect students and licensing revenue agreements. It also ensures that students will never read about game losses or losing seasons as access to those stories will be blocked.

  • http://twitter.com/KennyOcker Kenny Ocker

    I sure hope they hold themselves to the same cap.

  • guest

    makes sense, media franchises need to protect their assets. if someone can get an update every second from a game, they have no need to watch it on other media at the time, and can just watch the highlights on sportscenter. Not really sure why reporters need to be AT the game anyway, seems like a waste of funds to me. here’s the real question, can they do more than 20 tweets if they are watching the game live on TV?

  • jdm8

    I don’t believe that a twitter feed of a game is any substitute for TV or radio coverage.

  • Duh

    The idea that excessive tweeting would detract from the consumption of traditional media is ridiculous. Who would choose to read tweets if they had a video feed handy?

  • http://josephsunga.com/ Joseph Sunga

    As a fan, this doesn’t make any sense. Why would you stop people from talking about what’s happening at the game?

  • A.J. Renold

    UW should probably look over relavent copyright law and particularly NBA v. Motorola, which states that (paraphrased from the case) “The court reiterated that sporting events themselves are not copyrightable. The same would be true for other types of events over which the participants have no effective control of the outcome. This is very important, since much of the value of cyberspace is the ability to provide real-time access to information.” http://itlaw.wikia.com/wiki/NBA_v._Motorola