Our Top Insights Into Football Video on YouTube & Facebook

Video has long been the hot topic of our industry. Producing behind-the-scenes and funny clips for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is the modern challenge. And football on YouTube alone accounted for 23bn views globally!
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an event titled ‘The Future of Football Video’, hosted by Brave Bison at their new studios near Old Street in London. For those of you who have not heard of Brave Bison, they were previously Rightster, one of the original multi-channel network’s. They now operate as a digital media and social video producer and work with the likes of one the days guests, Calfreezy (2.9m YouTube subs).
Video intelligence agency Tubular Labs set the scene with some impressive stats for those attending including;
  • Manchester United drew 132m views on Facebook during April
  • Manchester City on YouTube attracted 6.6m views
  • Arsenal Fan TV saw a huge 20m views during the month on YouTube
  • Football lifestreams on Facebook 6x larger than in 2015/16 season
All very nice but reading between the lines on this look at the two biggest video platforms there were some significant insights.
It’s interesting how teams and football ‘creators’ see the different platforms. Teams are very much in favour of Facebook for their videos – Manchester United don’t even have a YouTube channel. This can be viewed a couple of ways;
  1. That clubs have already built significant Facebook followings that it makes sense for them to concentrate on that platform.
  2. ‘Creators’ started out on YouTube as there is a history of individuals building up huge followings through video and potentially a chance to make it into a living through ads – this doesn’t really exist on Facebook yet.
But the fact that YouTube is still seen as less important by clubs is a missed opportunity. Having worked for over 2 years with sports bodies and non-sports brands on YouTube strategy, I see what opportunities there are for those that truly commit to it.
Teams, and brands, tend be about getting quick hits that garner large amounts of views (often their only key metric). This is done much easier on Facebook as the platform is geared up for one-off interactions rather than community building.
To succeed on YouTube you need to have more patience and be in it for the long term. That is how the likes of Arsenal Fan TV’s Robbie and Full Time Devils have been able to build substantial followings. And add in the rise of ‘fan teams’ such as Hashtag United and Calfreezy’s Rebel FC you can see a demand for these more approachable and relatable channels and personalities.
These approaches are borne out in the stats. For YouTube over the last couple of years you can see a steady increase in views for football, with little variation due to the constant stream of content. The main spikes coming from the BIG games / events such as El Classico and Euro 2016.
Then take a look at Facebook and you can see the spikes and dips are a lot more pronounced. This is due to the less frequent videos and short term nature of them as we are likely to see funny viral ones and goals, but less in the way of regular ‘shows’. You’re not likely to see many Facebook creators posting daily at the same time once a day. They will come in flurry’s around big events.
Another interesting take out was for teams to start thinking outside of their sport and look at other interests their audience may have. It’s shown that those who watch football videos are also highly likely to be fans of other sports, gaming and music. Probably no surprises there but it does offer up opportunities to engage with fans in different ways and open up to new audiences who might not be football obsessed.
Many of the big ‘creators’ started out in gaming with FIFA and as they have grown then expanded into different areas such as music (KSI) and comedy skits (SPORF). This makes them highly watchable for different reasons and to different people, not just football fans. Something teams should take into account.
And finally we come onto live streaming. This has been probably the most talked about element of social media in the last 18 months. Despite it not being new – I worked on a livestream on Twitter for MLS/adidas back in 2012) – there has been huge interest in it since Facebook made it a key function of the platform, with Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat making it super simple for anyone to do it. No big budgets needed anymore as all you need is a smartphone, internet connection and an idea. That’s it.
But despite there being much interest, it still only takes up a very small percentage of the football content being published. Less than 1% in fact. I think there is an element on control at the heart of this, with teams always wanting to reduce risks, and live video always contains that risk. It’s also still not easy to do at scale and have the quality you’d like and with rights to games sitting away from the teams then the content they can stream is limited. It tends to be used more for post match reactions/celebrations or leading up to games to build excitement. A job the broadcasters used to do.