YouTube stars help NFL bring in more viewers, league says

YouTuber Deestroying and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell present at YouTube's Brandcast in May 2023.

Credit: YouTube

YouTube has bet big on the NFL to increase its subscriber base, and content creators have played a key role in that push.

After YouTube committed $2 billion a year to secure the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, YouTube TV grew from 5 million subscribers in 2022 to more than 8 million this year. Recruiting some of YouTube's top creators to promote NFL Sunday Ticket helped drive engagement from tens of millions of users, the league said.

“We can bring together people's favorite creators with a lot of what you might traditionally associate with television around professional sports and the NFL,” said Christian Oestlien, YouTube TV's vice president of product management. “Bringing these two worlds together allows us to truly open the NFL to a whole new generation of fans.”

A YouTube TV subscription costs $73 per month, with an additional annual fee of $349 for access to NFL Sunday Ticket.

YouTube TV tapped well-known YouTube stars, including lifestyle creators, vloggers and sports creators, to attract new audiences to the NFL. Creators attended NFL games during the partnership's inaugural season, sharing content and collaborating with advertisers to drive engagement.

The NFL, in turn, has launched various shows on YouTube, such as “Creator of the Week,” to help promote creators on the sidelines. These YouTube shorts featured creators like Sean Evans – host of the chicken wing-centric interview show Hot Ones – and professional Battle Royale player and streamer Ninja.

The parties are calling this approach a “no-helmet strategy,” aimed at expanding the scope of content surrounding the football season.

“This is another way for us to expand our message and, more importantly, the football lifestyle,” said Ian Trombetta, NFL senior vice president of social, influencer and content marketing. . “So many new fans are coming, not just in the United States, but all over the world.”

YouTube accounted for 8.5% of total TV viewing time in December, outpacing other major streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+. according to Nielsen.

While overall viewership on YouTube declined last year, according to Nielsen, Tom Rogers, media expert and executive president of gaming content sharing platform Oorbit, noted that a substantial portion of the growth in streaming Live TV in the last quarter was attributed to YouTube TV. Rogers pointed out that its advantage during this period was its Sunday Ticket offering.

“NFL Sunday Ticket gives us a great way to work with a very good partner with very valuable content and see how it works,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of YouTube parent company Alphabet, in an interview Thursday with “NFL Sunday Ticket.” Squawk Box” from CNBC. “So far everything has gone well, but we will have a disciplined return on investment. [return on investment] frame.”

Attract new, younger fans

One of the NFL's biggest creator partnerships was with Donald De La Haye, known online as Deestroying, a sports creator with more than 12 million followers across all platforms. The Hague was recently signed to the United Football League playing for the San Antonio Brahmas.

“It brings new audiences to this amazing game that I love so much,” De La Haye said. “It just helps grow that audience and make everyone a fan of the game.”

Lifestyle creator Pierson Wodzynski – who has 24 million followers across all platforms but had never delved into sports content before – found his way into YouTube's NFL strategy by document your trip take any means of transportation to get to a San Francisco 49ers game. The video attracted 1.4 million views.

From Hague, Wodzynski and Evans will appear in a YouTube television commercial that will air during the Super Bowl.

Screenshot of Super Bowl YouTube TV commercial featuring Donald De La Haye, Pierson Wodzynski and Sean Evans

Credit: YouTube

Partnerships with creators have been helpful in attracting a younger demographic.

“I don't think the NFL could have created the viewership surge that it created this season without the arrival of a younger audience,” Rogers said. “We know it's very difficult to reach younger audiences through TV marketing as they watch comparatively less, so I suspect the league's use of influencers has been very important for the ratings.”

They also increased NFL content off the field.

Influencers such as Alix Earle and Kristin Juszczyk, both romantically involved with NFL players, have gone viral this season by sharing glimpses of their gameday experiences. Juszczyk was also recognized for her creation of custom game day outfits, which gained attention when worn by pop icon Taylor Swift and Brittany Mahomes, the wife of the Chiefs quarterback of Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes.

Swift has made her own impact on social media this season, after posts about her relationship with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce went viral online.

Travis Kelce and his brother Jason, a center for the Philadelphia Eagles, have their own podcast, called New Heights. It is hosted on YouTube and has garnered over 670 million views.

Angela Courtin, YouTube's global head of brand marketing, said this season's strategy with content creators was to invite a wide range of audiences to participate in all aspects of the NFL experience.

“I have to say that these creators are equal, if not better, than any other channel I would use in my immediate project,” Courtin said. “They have exceeded our ROI criteria so much that we are going to supercharge them next season.”

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