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Why YouTube is turning its attention to football channel Copa90

After launching primetime ads for Vice News, Zoella and Slow Mo Guys last year, YouTube is now turning its attention to football channel Copa90 which has racked up over 1m subscribers since launching in 2012.

With a mission to become the “defining youth media business centred on football,” Copa90, owned by Bigballs Media, is out to gain a level of authenticity out of reach for traditional broadcasters as it looks to capture the story of football outside the 90 minutes of the game and offer fans a unique perspective.

The channel is now averaging 3.6m views and 13.8m minutes of content watched each month. That, coupled with the announcement yesterday (14 October) that Copa90 has secured £7m in funding, which now values the channel at £50m, leaves little wonder why YouTube is betting big on the future of the channel.

In January this year Copa90 bought US soccer channel KICKTV from MLS, a move that has turned the channel into the world’s biggest online football network.

“We started with a very simple principle that we wanted to create a channel that was going to catch the story outside the 90 minutes, to make the 90 minutes matter more,” said Bigballs Media chief executive Tom Thirlwall at the IAB Engage conference in London today (15 October).

"[The channel has] launched into a wider purpose football media business all and we are all about reconnecting fans, because there is a wide sense of disenfranchisement around the world between fans and the industry of football and that over productised, broadcast football… We have managed to tell some of the stories that simply traditional media haven’t covered or didn’t want to cover.”

Those stories range from Spanish football club Real Oviedo’s journey from the brink of collapse in the country’s 4th division to Segunda B, the equivalent of English league One, to reporting from fan’s homes in Brazil around the 2014 World Cup.

Like its other YouTube counterparts, Copa90 talked up its disruptive role in linear broadcasting, with presenter Eli Mengem (who won his job in a competition) saying “fans trust us… [there is] an authenticity you can't get from mainstream media". The channel has already enjoyed sponsorship from Nissan, HTC and Adidas who partner with Copa90 to secure an “authentic connection to fans”.

So what next for the business? Expansion plans are afoot further across the US, South America and Asia alongside a recruitment drive to find nine new presenters to ramp up the channel’s content. Whether Copa90 can ultimately compete with the big boys in broadcast remains to be seen but with a growing young audience that is both passionate about the sport and inherently digital, the likes of Sky and BBC could be in for tough competition.