Are Top Sports Leagues Really YouTubers? Not Yet.


Though YouTube has been the largest video platform for many years, top pro and college sports brands are just now getting around to using the destination to expand their brands to larger (and younger audiences) and offer additional opportunities to advertisers and sponsors.

Turner Sports, which will again present the multi-week  March Madness college basketball starting March 17, will for the first time, offer current and prospective fans a dedicated YouTube channel chock full of captivating content as a supplement to live game TV coverage.

The new channel will feature real-time highlights and video recaps, from all 67 games of this year’s tournament.  Additional content will include live press conferences, game previews and analysis, and daily news and notes from the tournament airing across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV, according to Turner.

The move comes roughly a month after the National Football League launched a dedicated YouTube channel with much of the same type content as March Madness, and more, just days before Super Bowl 49.

Pro Sports Lagging

When it comes to top U.S. sports leagues, there’s much room for improvement. That’s especially true when it comes to reach youth and young demographics, with YouTube claiming half of all users viewing on a mobile device.

The NBA is the only sports channel in the YouTube top 100 according to, unless you count the WWE. The hoops channel has 2.6+ billion total upload video views, which earned it the number 43 spot on the list. The channel also has over 6 million subscribers.

If you look at just sports channels, the WWE has over 2 million subscribers, according to socialbakers. After that, there’s a big drop off for other pro sports channels.

Plan Ahead

While it’s tempting to label these initiatives as show-me-the-money-driven, it’s more likely that sports organizations have paused their business as usual efforts to take a look at the video viewing habits of young(er) age groups in an effort to plan for the now and for the future of their sports content.

Tunnel vision, aka, status quo thinking, puts you on a collision course with the light of an oncoming train as far as audience expansion is concerned. It’s clear as day that YouTube is a top source of video viewing for the expanding broadband generation, much of which comes at the cost of traditional TV viewing.

Just ask cable companies who are so obsessed with retaining current customers (TV Everywhere) that they seem to be ignoring “twenty somethings” and teens – their potential future customers. These segments love YouTube and sometimes spend more time online than in front of a TV. What happens when these consumers are forced to/faced with paying for their in-home entertainment?

Expand the Brand: Works in Progress

The NFL owns its content and has been reaching out to age groups all the way down to tykes through its content – and game-rich NFL Rush website. It recently renewed a deal with fast-riser Whistle Sports, which aspires to be “ESPN for kids,” to provide a video channel on the site.

But the NFL didn’t stop there. When the league launched its YouTube channel, it wasn’t just for the Super Bowl, or for the regular season. No, that channel provides video content 7x24, 365. The NFL has the benefit over Turner of providing content year-round as it’s truly America’s game.

Turner handles multiple sports beyond March Madness, such as pro basketball (NBA) and the PGA (managing It would be great if Turner launched a year-round channel carrying multiple types of sports content but that might be beyond heavy lifting as content owners prefer to have dedicated platforms for their precious video assets.

Image via Shutterstock.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) already has a dedicated YouTube channel loaded with news, highlights, scores and much more.  NBA’s developmental league has one as well.

The need to expand their brand is not lost on Turner, with the long-running marquis March Madness tournament.

“Tapping into the power and reach of YouTube’s video platform opens up new opportunities for us to grow interest and consumption of March Madness,” said Mark Johnson, vice-president of business operations for Turner Sports of the channel launch.

By the Numbers

There’s really no questioning YouTube’s reach as the company boasts 1 billion users with hundreds of millions of hours of video viewed each day. Half of YouTube viewers are on mobile devices, which is a killer stat for those looking to get beyond the TV and wired devices.

The top 100 channel list is overflowing with band and musician-specific channels and channels with non-music “tweenage” programming, some international sports league channels are mixed in.

YouTube claims the number of hours people spend watching content on YouTube each month is up 50% year over year. For those brands going, or wanting to go global, the company claims it’s localized in 75 countries and available in over 60 languages.

The Bottom Line

Stated simply, there’s much room for improvement when it comes to pro sports embracing YouTube. When it comes to reaching younger viewers, largely watching video on mobile devices, it’s an opportunity pro sports leagues need to embrace quickly and smartly.

Look for pro sports leagues - and perhaps those that manage their digital assets- to expand their use of the video destination, including event-specific uses such as Turner’s March Madness YouTube channel.

Stay tuned.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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Founder, Fast Forward Thinking LLC

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