Read our new manifesto
Future 50 Banner

Slash Football on monetising content escapism for the YouTube generation

Falling somewhere between Copa90 and Sport Bible, Slash Football claims to be the biggest channel of its kind and has its sight sets on using its unique brand of irreverent escapism to convince advertisers to fund its expansion.

The fast-growing broadcaster has managed to cut-through the gaggle of football-related memes, gifs and videos – and timing could be everything behind its success.

In the wake of (another) underwhelming tournament from the national team, Slash Football relaunched itself last July as a “distraction from the bleak reality of life” and has since seen its audience grow by 50% (albeit from a small base). From a Facebook audience that has jumped from less than two million to over three million in that period to a YouTube audience retention that is often over 65% much higher than the 40% average on the platform, the business bet the farm on 15 show formats and is now reaping the rewards. Between November and January, Slash Football achieved around 20% more video views on Facebook and YouTube than Copa90, according to Tubular Labs data cited by the business.

“That’s not to say there isn’t a place for serious content,” explained Will Pyne, chief creative officer at Brave Bison, the business behind Slash Football. “But when it comes to football and those viewers between 13 and 24-years old then I don’t think talking seriously about football is the way to go. I don’t think it will capture people’s attention and become shareable content.”

Banter, funny memes, charismatic presenters and videos of people messing around are all hallmarks of any self-respecting football channel and Slash Football duly employs all those tricks. Where it’s trying to be different is with the launch of a studio next month, which will act as the nerve center for what it hopes will achieve the right blend of frequency, volume and quality of content right as it looks to kick on by signing up its first brand partners and launching into new verticals.

Complete with a pitch area for its football based stunts, a green room where it will film shows like the highlights show without actual footage of the highlights ‘The Last Five’, a green room and lounge bar of sorts, the Eagle Wharf London location, will also be host to the various influencers on the Brave Bison network who can visit to make their own content there. For a business that believes there’s scope to go way beyond the 125 monthly videos it produces, having the studio will see it pay closer attention to what formats are doing well and where as well as what other channels it should invest in such as Snapchat. The mobile messaging app is still an away fixture for Slash Football, which finds it “very hard to pin down your reach and numbers on”, consequently making it hard to justify spend.

For now, Slash Football’s energies are split between the four main social networks; Facebook is its biggest, accounting for 60% to 70% of its content, then YouTube is around 20% followed by Twitter and Instagram, neither of which the broadcaster will produce content specially for. Consequently, Facebook is powering the business, thanks in part to it being easier to build an audience compared to its other channels, offering more ways to monetise the social videos it publishes as well as it being more about the idea than the popularity of an influencer.

“We’re definitely not ignoring YouTube but it can difficult to get traction because it's heavily creator focused,” said Pyne. “We play into that with things like our ‘Park Life’ series, which is our Sunday League format that brings in anything between 100,000 and 400,000 a views a week and that’s without any brand involvement. A lot of that is to do with the people involved such as KSI, who viewers love seeing what they’re up to. If you were to stick an influencer like him on Facebook in a piece of content then it can still not perform brilliantly, which is why we find that it’s a place more about the idea than the talent. For us, it’s about getting that balance right.”

Part of Slash Football’s growth on Facebook stems from reposting content it licenses, similarly to how Brave Bison makes it money. However, Pyne wants to build an engaged audience to ensure the channel keeps hold of the momentum behind it. Invariably, that will mean producing content that will likely be watched only once before someone possibly shares it, raising question marks as to whether there’s room for another football channel amid so much football-related content from its peers, football clubs, broadcasters and even brands.

“I’m a big believer in not just creating a load of noise but there is an appetite for content; that’s still growing and you’re seeing platforms monetise that growth… I can’t see there being a lack of appetite for the foreseeable future. For us, it comes down to having a steady stream of good ideas,” said Pyne on whether there’s a limit to producing as much as possible as cheaply as possible amid an overabundance of publishers.

“Frequency and volume are important and we’ve realized that the moment you take your foot off the pedal then you start to lose numbers as people start to lose interest. It’s an incredible balancing act because what you don’t want to do is compromise quality by producing so much content. Frequency shouldn’t come at the expense of quality.”

As impressive as Slash Football’s renaissance is, the business would do best not to over rely on Facebook. Like Copa90 before it, the football channel’s backers are mindful of how they get the brand out to as many people as possible even if it means striking a deal with a traditional broadcaster.

“Who knows what the future holds but we’re totally open to what and where the channel ends up,” Pyne said. “The fact that Copa90 has worked with ITV – we definitely wouldn’t rule that out. I think it’s a smart move because you get the feeling of being a grown-up channel of sorts because you’re working with a mainstream broadcaster and then their perspective they’re getting access to this younger audience that they so desperately need in order to survive.”

Commercial deals are under wraps for now, though potential partners were given a taste of what working with Slash Football could be like when it teamed with Teenage Cancer Trust to stage football tournament featuring YouTubers being electrocuted. Dubbed ‘An Absolute Shocker’, the video was live-streamed more than 280,000 times on the day.