Will MLB Advanced Media shut down NHL fan videos, GIFs?

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NHL commissioner Gary Bettman takes a question during a news conference before the NHL All-Star hockey game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman signed contract through 2022

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman takes a question during a news conference before the NHL All-Star hockey game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Major League Baseball Advanced Media, whose partnership with the NHL led to an overhaul of that League’s digital properties, has earned a reputation for a few things. Like high quality streaming capabilities. Like state-of-the-art mobile apps. And, in the eyes of some fans, a draconian approach to user-created content from copyrighted broadcasts. 

The stories from BAM’s crackdown on baseball videos are many. The “electronic minions” who would have YouTube delete users’ accounts for uploading classic MLB game clips. The Twitter suspensions for those who create GIFs of baseball games. Cracking down on baseball podcasts for using team colors in their logos.

And so on.

When BAM and the NHL partnered up, there was concern that hockey content would be next. Or should we say, there’s ongoing concern: None of the prominent hockey GIF, YouTube or Vine creators to whom we reached out for this story wanted to comment, even on background.

So should they be concerned, fingers trembling on keyboards, ready for BAM to drop the hammer on their accounts?

“No, I don’t think so,” Bob Bowman, MLBAM CEO and president, told us in a conversation this week. “They shouldn’t be trembling.”

He claims that many of those crackdowns were more about media use of clips rather than fans watching them.

“What got a lot of attention in baseball was when we embedded the biggest highlights of the night and make them free everywhere, and when media uses someone else’s embedded video, we call them up and ask them to use our video instead. That's what we do,” he said.

“We’re not in the habit in baseball of taking this stuff down. We want to work with the platforms to create a business model that makes sense for them and for us.”

It doesn’t appear, at the moment, that BAM would seek to rid Twitter of GIFs and Vines of NHL game clips. Which is, of course, the right decision: They promote the League, and the viral distribution of these clips are one of the reasons the NHL has the most tech-savvy and engaged fan base in pro sports. The kind of organic buzz created by the most prominent content creators can't be replicated by, say, clips tweeted out by the official NHL feed. 

The future of YouTube clips, however, is a little cloudier, as Bowman said BAM would likely seek a partnership with YouTube like MLB currently has. On the one hand, it seems like it would promote user-generated content. On the other hand ... who knows?

“I think in the long run, we’re as interested in getting as much stuff out as we can,” he said. “YouTube and baseball had worked out a deal now where user-generated content gets grouped up and promoted. I imagine the same thing will happen with the NHL.”

But again, the message from BAM at this early stage in its partnership with the NHL: Keep the GIFs, Vines and videos coming.

“The last thing we really want to do is if a fan has taken the time and effort to produce something, is to say we know better and to take it down. We don’t want to do that,” said Bowman.

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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