Last Sunday morning I was casually scrolling through my Twitter feed. It’s a ritual that I tend to do each morning and every 10 minutes after that for the rest of the day. On this particularly Sunday something stood out to me. England Rugby tweeted that both the England Women 6 Nations game against Italy Woman and the Under 15’s School’s Cup semi-final were both being shown live on YouTube.
I’ve watched quite a bit of live sport on YouTube before. A few years ago I watched the German SuperCup (their version of the Community Shield) between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 and earlier this year I stumbled across a few MLS pre-season friendlies that were being shown live. It got me thinking whether YouTube might be the future of live sport.
There are some strong arguments for why in the future you’ll be logging on to YouTube and watching your favourite team or sport. YouTube’s audience is very big. Over a billion different people visit the website a month. That’s an awful lot of potential supporters and fans. Interestingly, YouTube reaches more US adults aged between 18 and 24 than any cable network channel. Conveniently this is the prime target audience for pretty much the majority of sports. There’s no denying that YouTube provides the prime demographics for sport to tap into and is a platform for a truly global audience. YouTube is a universal product. It isn’t just limited to a computer or a laptop. Today you can watch YouTube videos on mobiles, televisions and, I’m assuming, glasses. The potential audience no longer have to be chained to a desk or a bedroom, they can be almost anywhere they want to be. It’s worth thinking about the amount of people who watch illegal streams of their favourite sports. To sporting governing bodies and the advertisers involved in those sports, the universal platform and global audience of YouTube must be a unique selling point.
Sporting bodies and teams have arguably only started taking advantage of YouTube in recent years but now most major sports, competitions and teams have an official YouTube channel. The official England cricket team’s YouTube channel is made up of interviews with coaches and players with the occasional set of highlights. The NBA YouTube channel is a little more comprehensive, showing highlights from key games although these don’t tend to last more than about 2 minutes. It certainly seems that for the larger and popular sports, YouTube is acting more as something to enhance traditional television viewing rather than replacing it; a sentiment echoed by the NBA’s marketing team. What we are seeing though is the smaller and more specialised interest sports like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivering their content via YouTube. The UFC offers a subscription package on YouTube that broadcasts fights to subscribers who’ve paid the monthly sum. The fundamental difference between the likes of the NBA and the UFC on YouTube is cost. UFC is always going to be a considerably cheaper option for YouTube when it comes to licensing than the NBA. While YouTube isn’t exactly scraping the barrel financially, to get a major sport would require a considerable amount of money that would batter a few eyelids to say the least.
In all honesty a future where YouTube is broadcasting popular sports is far off, let alone them being the big broadcaster. For the time being, it acts as a perfect tool for sports to enrich fans with highlights, exclusive content and behind the scenes action.