Game time for social video

In this guest post, GlobalWebIndex’s Felim McGrath shares his thoughts on the potential of social video to broadcast live sports and major events, and whether social media could be the next step for sports broadcasting. 

Where did you watch the Champions League final last month? Or the Europa League final? BT Sport claims that 3 million of us watched one of the finals live on YouTube – and that number is only set to rise for future fixtures. From Twitter’s deal to broadcast Thursday night NFL games, to Snapchat signing a content deal to show highlights from the Rio Olympics, sports broadcasters and social networks are clearly convinced of the potential of social video. As yet, live sport remains one of the last mainstays on TV to stay relatively unchallenged by the advent of streaming, but as social video starts to look more and more like TV, is social media the next step for sports broadcasting?

Sports fans are still at least twice as likely to be tuning in to sporting competitions via television, showing the importance attached to watching sports games live, often in a group, on a larger screen, rather than on catch-up. But there’s clear potential for online growth. GlobalWebIndex’s research has found many as 1 in 4 self-confessed sports fans watch the World Cup online; and a fifth watch Olympics coverage on the web.


There is good reason to think that social networks could be the big winners as online becomes a key part of sports viewing. The truly global reach of social networks like Facebook and Twitter mean extensive potential audiences for sports broadcasters to tap. GlobalWebIndex’s data shows considerable numbers of social networkers are already turning to the web to watch sports coverage or highlights. More than two-thirds of Twitter users and 70% of Snapchatters report doing so each month. Given that many of these networks are already go-to points for sports discussion and live updates, their potential to become the main hosts of sports coverage and highlights is clear.


The recent inclusion of live video on Facebook and Twitter has been the icing on the cake for broadcasters hoping to get their content in front of as many people as possible. Watching and sharing video has become a mainstay activity on social networks, and Facebook has been at the forefront of this. Over half of Facebookers watch videos on the network each month – and with figures remaining above the 50% mark for all age groups, and reaching even higher among sports fans, the potential reach is plain to see.

For the foreseeable future at least, social video will be a complement to broadcast TV. But there’s little doubt that the worlds of social media and live sports will become ever-more intertwined as social video moves away from short user-generated clips to the live-streaming of major events.