Americans, Canadians, South Africans and Australians call it soccer, Spaniards and Latin Americans call it fútbol, but the rest of the world calls it football. But, whatever it’s called, the game is played by over 250 million players in over 200 countries, making it the world's most popular sport.
That’s why today’s announcement that YouTube has partnered with digital specialists Rightster and international sports media rights agency MP & Silva to bring the best of international football content to YouTube is big news.
This partnership creates a new sports channel on YouTube, Love Football, which will include highlights from Italy’s Serie A, France’s Ligue 1, U.S. Major League Soccer, Brazil’s Serie A and the Championship, FA Cup and Capital One Cup from England.
YouTube audiences can now access some of the best footballing action from around the world. In addition, Love Football offers fans the ability to subscribe to content on YouTube from their favorite leagues. Clips of interviews with players and managers, documentaries and behind-the-scenes footage are also part of the channel offer.
In the press release, Stephen Nuttall, Senior Director, Sports, YouTube EMEA, said: “We’re delighted to be able to offer content from Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1 and other international leagues to YouTube’s passionate football community around the world. Our ambition is to establish YouTube as a destination for goals and highlights and this deal adds another top league to YouTube’s football offer.”
Andrea Radrizzani, Group CEO, MP & Silva, added: “Launching Love Football on YouTube is an extremely exciting project for us. In addition to highlights clips our new channel gives us the ability to stream live sports content. We can now for the first time engage directly with consumers and football fans on a global scale.”
And Charlie Muirhead, Founder and CEO of Rightster, concluded, “We’re delighted to be supporting MP & Silva with the exciting launch of the Love Football Channels on YouTube. The YouTube platform now has many amazing new features that sports fans will love. Rightster's audience development teams in London and New York have already been busy working to alert fans and build the loyal and passionate subscriber base these channels deserve.”
So, what does today’s announcement mean to online video marketers?
Well, it’s another indication that YouTube is rapidly becoming the cable TV of a whole new generation of viewers.
Back on Oct. 28, 2011, Robert Kyncl, Global Head of Content Partnerships, said in a post on The Official YouTube Blog,
“Cable television expanded our viewing possibilities from just a handful of channels to hundreds, and brought us some of the most defining media experiences of the last few decades -- think MTV, ESPN and CNN. Today, the web is bringing us entertainment from an even wider range of talented producers, and many of the defining channels of the next generation are being born, and watched, on YouTube.”
The first sports channel to take advantage of this opportunity was the National Basketball Association, which launched the NBA channel on YouTube on Nov. 20, 2005.
It was quickly followed by the launch of the Official Channel of MLB.com on Dec. 25, 2005.
The Indian Premier League launched IPL’s channel on YouTube March 7, 2006, for cricket fans around the world.
The National Hockey League launched the NHL channel on YouTube on Oct. 26, 2006.
And 11 of the YouTube Original Channels announced last October with great fanfare were sports channels. This includes:
- Alli Sports
- Bleacher Report
- Network A
- The NOC
- Red Bull
- RIDE Channel
- SB Nation
- Team USA
In fact, the only major sport that is still underrepresented on YouTube these days is the National Football League. Yes, the official YouTube channel of the NFL Players Association was launched on June 8, 2006. But, the NFL still seems more focused on its TV partners: CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and the NFL Network.
Is this wise? Who knows, a generation from now when someone says they love football maybe they’ll mean they love soccer on YouTube.
Hey, I’m old enough to remember when ESPN was launched back on Sept. 7, 1979. It debuted with an estimated 30,000 viewers. And the first words spoken by SportsCenter co-anchor Lee Leonard were, “If you love sports...if you really love sports, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to sports heaven.”
And the first score that the other co-anchor George Grande reported was Chris Evert's victory over Billie Jean King at the US Open. SportsCenter lasted a half hour and consisted mainly of videotaped highlights. Following the conclusion of the telecast, the network aired a slow-pitch softball game along with other programming, including wrestling and college soccer.
Yep, revolutions in sports-related programming generally start small. That’s why today’s announcement that YouTube has partnered with Rightster and MP & Silva to bring the best of international football content to YouTube is really big news.