The Drum Awards for Marketing - Entry Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

Technology Youtube Olympics

YouTube ready to go for gold in fast-changing sports arena


By Seb Joseph | News editor

August 4, 2016 | 5 min read

The 2016 Rio Games will be YouTube’s marker in the online tussle for sports viewers, with upcoming broadcast deals and live-streams signalling how it plans to beat its rivals, while keeping media owners onside.


YouTube ready to go for gold in fast-changing sports arena.

Four years ago Google’s video powerhouse chased Olympic lovers (relatively) uncontested. Now, it finds itself contesting Twitter and Facebook. Highlights and archive footage have come to encapsulate YouTube's response to the competition and now its eyeing live-streaming and 360 videos to capitalise on a growing habit among sports fans.

People watched 231 million streams during London 2012 off the back of partnerships with NBC and the International Olympics Committee. For Rio 2016, YouTube is partnering with over 60 broadcasters in more than 60 countries, including the BBC (UK) and America Movil (Latin America) to show official Olympics highlights packages.

“The main thing we’ve been focused on over the last couple is around match highlights and its important that we are the home of that type of content,” said Tomos Grace, the head of UK sport at YouTube.

Although this strategy isn’t new in the sports arena, the Olympics offers YouTube a chance to show off the breadth and depth of its audience over rivals, particularly on mobile. At the end of 2015, 46 per cent of all video plays were on mobile devices and from this 69 per cent of all videos watched on smartphones were under 10 minutes long, according to Tabular Insights. This in mind, it’s not too much of stretch to see why YouTube has channelled so much resource into getting the highlights offering right, with Grace keen to stress the importance of “having a content offer that captures difference viewing experiences, which is something that we hope to work with the broadcasters and IOC to address”.

“If you’re interested in the main events of the day then there are broader highlights that you could put together for the day’s action but then ideally someone would be able to dig down into the individual content for various events that take place – these are things that we’ll be looking at with content partners.”

In fashioning a broader viewing experience, YouTube is inevitably moving further into live-streaming. For a brand that’s synonymous with video and has quietly built the infrastructure for live-streaming in recent years, Facebook and Twitter have taken the limelight since the turn of the year. YouTube’s live-stream of the Champions League and Europa League finals earlier this year teased its own potential but the Olympics is a bigger stage to test and learn from what is tipped to become a core part of its growth plans moving forward.

Some of those learnings will come from the 15 creators YouTube has sent to Rio where they will make use of its new mobile live-streaming feature to share behind-the-scene moments. Rather than chase sporting rights like some of its rivals, the video portal is content (for now) to build live-streaming of sports around behind-the-scenes footage from its content creators or as Grace calls it “content that lives beyond the 90 minutes”.

While it's sufficiently cheaper than owning live sports rights, there’s also the matter of a rocky relationship with broadcasters that YouTube has to balance. To that end, it makes more strategic sense to position live-streaming as something that can help push viewers back to broadcasters’ own channels instead of outright steal them, especially when there’s already so much live coverage online already. In the UK, eMarketer estimates 160 million people will stream the Rio games, about 1.5 times the number who streamed the 2012 London games.

“Live-streaming is really important to us,” explained Grace, who added will help cement YouTube as a place where people can discover content rather than just seek it out. He claimed the algorithm powering video discovery is getting better at understanding the sports that interest a viewer, meaning that it can now start to surface live-streams to people while they’re searching for related topics. “We’re now getting better at going beyond just the reactive search function to proactively project content to people likely to be interested in it – clearly live-streaming falls into that,” he added.

With so much sports on its way to YouTube in the coming weeks and months there’s potentially more ad money up for grabs. Part of that is because sports on YouTube means more older viewers watching more content and for longer. “We’re seeing it time and again for sporting events [on YouTube] that advertisers have the freedom to create content which is entertaining,” said Grace. “It used to be that all content needed to be 26 minutes and the ads had to be 30 seconds for example, but clearly that’s no longer the case now. Advertisers have that freedom to now go shorter than 30 seconds or much longer. The question I ask marketers is ‘how long is the story you want to tell?’,,,there’s a much greater freedom that marketers have around sports content to be telling those stories."

To view more marketing insights into Rio 2016 visit The Drum’s Olympics hub here.

Technology Youtube Olympics

More from Technology

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +