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Hollywood, Sports Teams Mobilize to Counter the Twitter Effect

Given the enormous potential Twitter users have to affect public opinion, it was inevitable that various media businesses would start to exploit -- and even push back against -- the microblogging phenomenon.

Movie studios are racing to influence the instant pans or praise of films on Twitter and other social networking sites, which Hollywood suits believe can sway opening-weekend attendance, sometimes dramatically. They are inviting Twittering movie fans to pre-screenings or to interface with official web site trailers. Tinsel Town is trying to manipulate the inevitable flood of social networking banter about films in their favor. Of course, it doesn't always work: Films like Bruno and G.I. Joe saw ticket sales collapse during their opening weekends, which some in Hollywood attribute to bad Twitter reviews.
Likewise some Southwestern Conference sports team owners are becoming combative about fans in the stands who post instant video replays and reports on ad-supported web sites or social networks in violation of commercial reuse policies. Although policing unlicensed use of teams' play footage and other video may prove an impossible task, the Big Ten and other collegiate conferences say they're prepared to go to exhaustive lengths to police the unlicensed use of game video. They'd rather be exploiting their own players.

A clampdown is meant to protect an online archive of games and file footage the conference will market this fall under the moniker SEC Digital Network -- mirroring like efforts by Major League Baseball and other pro organizations.

In both cases, the tweeting crowd is narrowing the window of opportunity for viral marketing of newly released films and sporting plays when word of mouth and video sharing doesn't do the trick. The management and enforcement of ownership rights to video, images and audio transmissions is now a matter for play-by-play blogging from movie theaters and sports stadiums.

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