Great Expectations: Football media is in the hands of the fans

In this first insight article from the Great Expectations: Football Issue we’re exposing the growing gap between what football fans expect and what they’re traditionally served.

Football used to centre around the Saturday afternoon match – listening on the radio, watching on subscription TV if you could afford it, going to the pub maybe, or watching it live in the stands. Newspapers provided the pre-match build up and the post-match analysis.

Digital has changed everything. Media is no longer the stronghold of the few. The monopoly on both creation and distribution has crumbled. Football is on tap all week long. It’s live, reactive and interactive from a multitude of publishers, including clubs, brands and fan channels.

Despite broadcasters paying 71% more for the 2017-20 Premier League rights compared the previous three years, some fan channels have a reach far exceeding traditional media. Ball Street Network, for example, has an aggregated social reach of over 50m compared to around 5m Sky Sports subscribers.

“Much of football is behind a veneer. Fans have less time and more choices than ever. Traditional broadcast media just doesn’t appeal so much now.” Matt Wilson, CEO Ball Street

Football clubs have also developed more direct channels with fans, by-passing traditional media. Manchester City’s Tunnel Cam pioneered the use of new live video content outside of the game and exclusively on their own channels. Some clubs are even looking to buy out of league-level rights deals completely so they can own the direct relationship with fans end to end. In our fan survey, 63% said they follow their club’s official website, app or social media channels at least weekly.

The English Football League launched a live streaming platform, iFollow, for overseas fans from the start of the 2017/18 season. And some of the largest digital players such as Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and YouTube are going after sports rights too.

Football media is no longer the privilege of a few powerful TV broadcasters and newspaper brands. It has been democratised with fan channels attracting some of the largest audiences.

Do you represent a brand looking to reach and engage with part of the world’s 3.5bn football fans? A partnership with fan channels may be the answer. Get in touch with Miranda for a post-match interview if you’d like to know more.

This is the first of six articles featuring a key facet of the beautiful game that is evolving and what this means for brands.

Next week, we’re turning to how the next generation of fans are consuming football, revealing some jaw-dropping statistics from our own survey and third party research.

Download our full exclusive report