On May 18, BT Sport made the unprecedented decision to live stream the Europa League final on its YouTube channel, and to do the same with the prestigious Champions League final again just one week later!

The decision led to one of the biggest-ever UK audiences on YouTube for a sporting event, and it is believed to be in their top five most-watched live sports broadcasts in the UK.

The result; over 3.5 million people (in the UK alone) watching Liverpool crumble under the weight of pressure and unceremoniously flop out to their Spanish competitors, Sevilla.

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Now, we’re sure you’re all aware of YouTube’s relentless innovation and drive to maintain its status as the best video content platform (if you’re not, may I direct you to a helpful resource: Wikipedia), but we think this is the most exciting innovation so far.

This year alone, YouTube has launched and developed its 360° video technology, expanded into live streaming capabilities and are exploring a subscription-based model, with YouTube Red. Even still, the decision by BT Sport to broadcast the finals of two of Europe’s biggest sporting competitions live on its YouTube platform is huge!

Could YouTube replace traditional media?

For years now, YouTube has been a fantastic platform to complement TV broadcasts – be that in traditional advertising as well as television programming. However, what this decision suggests is a greater move in the role of YouTube – from complementary, to supplementary and potentially, replacement.

The dispute between TV Thinkbox & Google over where people are watching video content these days has been well documented. Thinkbox asserts that young people still watch significant portions of their video content intake on TV, while Google claims this behaviour has shifted towards YouTube.

Well, it seems BT Sport may have provided a proverbial Abraham Lincoln to this viewing civil war. After dwindling viewing figures on their TV channel, BT’s shift to YouTube programming demonstrates a change in media perspective – to one which agrees with Google.

Certainly the early results seem to back up their faith.

Since it’s launch in 2013, BT Sport has struggled with viewing figures and getting the right reach they need. The initial results of the YouTube streaming innovation seem to suggest they have found a solution.

While the streaming of the finals is still supplementary to the broadcast on the BT Sport TV channel, it may not be long before it takes a more prominent role and other broadcasters (and advertisers) look to the platform in order to reach the ever-elusive, modern consumer. If YouTube is able to offer a solution to reach them, they have a chance to become the primary distribution platform for certain traditionally broadcasted media content.

What is YouTube doing?

YouTube appears not to be altering its positioning as a content distributor, allowing BT Sport to show the finals and La Liga World to do the same with the Spanish Football League. Neither has it entered the game of buying rights to broadcast the Champions League or Spanish football on its own, instead choosing to steadfastly remain as a platform.

This is a strong stand and one which will help it become a challenger for traditional broadcast media channels down the line.

And here’s one last thought… if live football broadcasting continues on YouTube, and includes more of the platform’s own interactive technology, we might be granted the mercy of being able to watch BT Sport without having to listen to Michael Owen!

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