GM Thought of the Week


“Football forever” as the old adage goes. That may very well be the case, but there’s another that goes “same but different”. I could write an essay on how the beautiful game has changed even in my lifetime. I remember the birth of the Premier League back in 1992 and have watched the “brand” grow. Sky Sports was also a huge innovation back in the early 90s, and I’ve noted the inextricable connection between Sky TV’s business growth and the Premier League’s global evolution.

Fast forward 25 years and we have new innovations and developments in sports broadcasting – one in particular last night. BT Sport broadcast the Europa League Final live from Stockholm, free of charge to UK viewers via YouTube.


The game was not a classic but the quality of the broadcast was high. The match result was 2-0 and another trophy for Manchester United, but BT Sport have so far kept their score undisclosed. Unlike Facebook Live we weren’t privy to the number of viewers at the time, so I checked out the stream before it even started and the Live chat was practically illegible it was updating so quickly. Clearly there was no shortage of interest and a lot of buzz around the broadcast. The trailer featuring the link to the game achieved 1.2m views in 24 hours, so we can surmise that the reach for the match itself would have been somewhat lower than this. Meanwhile on TV, overnights show that the broadcast on BT Sport 2 peaked at 2.65m viewers (where the match was also broadcast free), suggesting that far more people tuned into their TV set to watch the game than visited YouTube.

At the time of writing, the 2 ½ minute highlight reel of the game also uploaded to YouTube from BT has been watched 98,000 times. To me, this feels low. Interestingly this is less than half the number of views United’s manager Jose Mourinho’s charismatic post-match interview achieved.

What does this say to us? With the majority of YouTube content being consumed via mobile devices, perhaps we aren’t yet living in a Digital world where traditional 2 hour broadcasts on YouTube aren’t “tune in” occasions. Is YouTube still more a platform for watched bitesize comic and irreverent clips rather than long form broadcast content, or even highlights?

Fair play to BT Sport for taking a shot though. If this innovation wasn’t enough for armchair fans, then it’s about to get even more exciting. BT Sport will broadcast the UEFA Champions League Final next Saturday in 360 degree Virtual Reality. You’ll be able to watch Real Madrid vs Juventus via a Google Cardboard-style headset – again free on YouTube. Surely they must be content player of the season?

Martin Doyle, Head of Digital

25th May 2017