Cultural Trends

As cable viewership goes down, online views of highlights continues to spike.

March Madness is here again — yes, the big dance of 2018 is already in full swing! (Or should we say, slam?)

You might remember from last year that we published our first-ever piece about March Madness “Buzzer Beaters,” a data-driven way to wrap our heads around the 2016 tournament’s most impressive digital moments on YouTube. We didn’t want that to be a one-time wonder, so we’re back, now fully equipped with 2017 data, to shed a few insights on what we’d like to call the March Madness “Slam Dunk Dominators.”

So, what’s a “Slam Dunk Dominator,” you ask? It’s basically that moment in a game where, if you only had that moment to watch, it would be that moment that you would never want to miss. And not surprisingly, as we started to see in 2016, these make-or-break moments proved to the be the biggest draw of all March Madness online viewership.

Slam Dunk Dominators Double in Views

In fact, since last year, these “Slam Dunk Dominators” have doubled in views! That tells us a few things about today’s video consumption behaviors, most notably the fact that many consumers today either only have enough time to watch – or are simply prioritizing – game highlights, especially those that involve major upsets. (After all, we all like a little drama, right?) This is becoming more of the rule and less of an exception as more and more sports fans continue to cut the cord and only watch sports programming online.

Stats that take down the net

Where do the 2017 March Madness YouTube viewership stats stack up? Let’s take a look:

On the Rise: Overall Viewership

In 2017, there were 4.4 million live streams of the March Madness Final, with a total of 208 million views of March Madness-related content on YouTube alone.

Highlight Clips: Making a Fast Break

Rather than watching full games, fans are proving to be even more interested in tuning into to view highlights and clips from past games.

Nothin’ But the Bottom of the Net: Buzzers, Dunks & Upsets

In 2017, the top video for March Madness upsets was “Top 5 NCAA Upsets in Tournament History,” clocking in at more than 224,000 views. Topping that, our growing trend of “Dunk Dominators” drew more than 303,000 views with the popular, “2017 NCAA Tournament: Best Dunks!” video. And because we couldn’t forget our perennial video favorite – the infamous “Buzzer Beater” – the top ranking video last year was “Top 5 Buzzer Beaters of All Time | NCAA March Madness,” which garnered more than 87,000 total views.

Trends within the Madness: Spikes in Uploads

In 2017, the greatest spike in uploads – a whopping 445% – happened in the couple days immediately following the “First Four” games. And, as to be expected, there were also some smaller spikes around the “Elite 8,” “Final 4,” and “Championship” games.

The big takeaways? The fans have spoken – they are consuming more March Madness video on YouTube than ever before, they favor watching highlights over full games and they love to view nail-biting, crowd pleasing moments like awesome dunks, bracket busters and buzzer beaters. And, they aren’t just watching from the sidelines either—they’ve got their skin in the game, actively uploading new content and contributing to the vast and growing landscape.

Cultural Trends

Few events on television transfix the American (and worldwide) sports fan more than the annual NFL showdown of the last two teams standing as they do battle for the Lombardi trophy. Even for the sports-averse, the Super Bowl action is nestled between some of the most memorable and expensive advertisements ever produced. Whether it’s for the ads, the game, or the camaraderie of house parties, the Super Bowl is appointment television in the most traditional sense.

Even with the rise of millennials migrating en masse to digital video platforms to satisfy their entertainment needs, these same cord-cutters and cord-nevers will be texting anyone they know with a giant flatscreen (and an even larger bowl of chips) to commune with ad lovers and die-hard NFL fanatics alike. For the time being, the Super Bowl transcends trends and returns nearly everyone (for one Sunday per year, at least) back to the universal living room to watch good old-fashioned TV. With each passing year, viewership is on the rise, with last year’s game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots breaking ratings records again, with 114.4 million tuned into the live event.

Yet, despite this, digital video platforms such as YouTube get savvier each year, finding new ways to participate in the action. Before, during, and especially after the game, YouTube is the home to some of the most-watched Super Bowl-related content outside of the game itself.

In fact, view numbers of uploaded Super Bowl content (highlights, advertisements, fan-reactions, and more) far surpass the 100+ million game-watchers tuned into the actual broadcast. ZEFR has identified over 130K Super Bowl-related videos uploaded to the tune of 2 billion views.

So, what are we watching when we’re not watching the game itself? Here, ZEFR Insights delves into the emerging Super Bowl trends dominating YouTube, where football fans can be seen cheering or groaning along with triumphant plays or blown calls, and the less-sports inclined flock to repeat-view their favorite ads that often go viral long after the final score has been tallied. Thanks to YouTube’s ever-expanding library, there’s even content to consume long before kickoff.

In other words, as much as the Super Bowl is—and will be into the foreseeable future—a destination television event like no other, YouTube and other digital video platforms are not warming any benches on the sidelines.

super bowl on youtube zefr data videoid

Super Bowl on YouTube - ZEFR VideoID data

Before the Game

Over 50 percent of content that fans view prior to the Super Bowl is centered around playoff contenders, recipes, party ideas, official team content, and sponsored pre-game contests and halftime previews.

During the Game

Commercials are still king on the actual game day, accounting for over 33 percent of the content viewed. However, fan reactions to commercials and game highlights, as well as content surrounding Super Bowl party vlogs are becoming increasingly popular with fans.

After the Game

With so much action surrounding the biggest game of the year, it’s easy to forget that the NFL only launched its official YouTube channel a few days before last year’s Super Bowl. This multi-year pact with Google allows YouTube viewers exclusive access to highlights and official team content, generating millions of views for the league as it marches toward the season-ending championship.

In less than a year, the NFL seems to have found the YouTube sweet spot, marrying elements of the platform’s most-watched content and fine-tuning it for its own brand, including mock movie trailers hyping playoff games.

As for this year’s Super Bowl, after the game it’s all about the ads. Who won? Who lost? We’re not talking about the teams, we’re talking about the ads. Look for YouTube to roll out an a revamped edition of last year’s inaugural AdBlitz where viewers gathered around the virtual watercooler not just to talk about the ads they loved and loathed, but to vote on them and crown another winner of the Super Bowl: the most creative spot.

Game Day is No Longer a Day

With the advent of digital video and the consumer becoming increasingly astute—happily curating and mining content to frame their own, personalized viewing experience—platforms such as YouTube have given the Super Bowl an even broader reach long before (and after) game day. In fact, advertising during the game is no longer the only way a brand can leverage the Super Bowl event to increase exposure. Once upon a time, a brand spent the entire year refining that one singular moment in between plays to hit (or miss) with their coveted spot. Variables intervene, games can lag or overshadow the ad breaks, and timing was everything.

Now, much as the viewer and fan can customize their own experience of the Super Bowl beyond the confines of the four-hour broadcast window, brands armed with the right data can discover the right strategy across a longer timeframe to capitalize on the event while steering their message with ever-increasing control. What time is kickoff? You decide.


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5 video streaming predictions 2016 zefr
Thought Leadership

This article was originally published on Re/code.

At the end of 2013, I wrote an article entitled, “Video Is the Future of Social” for AllThingsD. In it, I predicted the important role that video would play in the social Web, and why. Two years later, as digital video has grown exponentially, thanks to platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, it feels more and more like we are at the precipice of yet another tipping point for content and content distribution.

So for 2016, I’m making five new predictions on the future of streaming video, and the platforms and industries at the center of this disruptive market.

1) Free ad-supported video viewing (AVOD) will continue its meteoric growth, but consumers will retaliate against poor advertising experiences.

The industry is already starting to pay the price for egregious ad loads and disruptive, irrelevant ad experiences. This trend will continue to amplify in 2016. A 2015 report by PageFair and Adobe says that 16 percent of the U.S. online population blocks ads, an increase of 48 percent from the previous year.

But this type of ad blocking is just the tip of the iceberg, and the advertising industry needs to wake up and heed the warning signs. For advertisers, this is a call to action to create more compelling and relevant content that is tailor-made for each digital platform. For publishers and platforms, it is a call to action to further innovate and create experiences that align with consumer expectation, mindset and intent.

2) YouTube and Facebook will continue to square off, and it will probably result in a split decision.

In the video arena, each of these platforms offers tremendous audience scale and distinct advertising solutions: YouTube has Google Preferred and TrueView, and Facebook has people-based marketing. As brand marketers shift their broadcast budgets to these open platforms, they will demand certain assurances with regard to brand and content alignment, especially given the variety of uploaded content. Meanwhile, audiences will be equally demanding with their content and viewing experiences.

Two different constituents with a strong set of expectations will most likely result in a split decision. This is to say, one of the platforms might win with the audience, and the other platform might win with the advertisers. YouTube’s new ad-free subscription service, YouTube Red, is a strong step to diversify revenue and dependency on advertisers. Now the challenge is to prove they can convert a percentage of those billion-plus free viewers into paying customers.

3) Cord-cutting and cable unbundling will increase, making the “skinny bundle” an increasingly attractive option.

cord cutting emarketerThe latest forecasts demonstrate that a growing percentage of Americans are “cutting the cord” (4.9 million households in 2015) — and those in the business of television are rushing to keep up. At last year’s CES, Dish premiered its Web-based Sling TV service, which is designed to appeal to a younger generation of “cord-cutters” and “cord-nevers.”

In 2015, HBO, Showtime and CBS all debuted standalone streaming services. These new Web-based TV services — coupled with popular offerings like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — have opened consumers’ eyes to the reality of the “skinny bundle.” As consumers adjust to the appeal of making a la carte programming choices, the industry will head directly into my next prediction…

4) The subscription video on demand (SVOD) wars are just beginning, ushering in a new disruptive, hypercompetitive era.

Last August, Disney CEO Bob Iger alluded to the fact that disruption was occurring in the multichannel television universe (cable), and that it wouldn’t be inconceivable to go direct to consumers with Disney’s flagship brand, ESPN. That in turn sparked a massive investor sell-off of TV-related stocks. That market shock might go down in history as the sounding bell for what will certainly become known as The Era of SVOD. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, YouTube Red (as well as more niche SVOD players like Crunchyroll, DramaFever and NBC/Uni’s new Seeso, to name a few) are all vying for consumer attention and the accompanying subscriber revenue.

James Murdoch spoke plainly at the Goldman Sachs Conference last September about the power of OTT (“over-the-top” content, delivered digitally) and how it directly relates to increased control in a disruptive market. The major issues facing those competing in the SVOD arena not only includes subscriber acquisition, but also retention, given that consumers can unsubscribe with a simple click. In the race to attract paid subscribers, platforms that have large audiences viewing free content can be powerful conversion funnels. This bodes well for YouTube Red. In 2016, the other SVOD players will need to leverage the scale of free viewing platforms to drive subscriber growth or quickly become irrelevant in the war for consumer attention.

5) Media companies will become data and tech companies in order to survive and thrive.

This last prediction is actually a warning. I’m a fan of creative IP and the machine that has honed that process of leveraging that IP to drive large media companies. But the biggest mistake anyone can make in this world of nonlinear streaming distribution with diverse global audiences is to think that a media company of tomorrow only needs to focus on yesterday’s playbook.

The greatest coup Netflix pulled off in its early days was to downplay with the media companies (from which it was licensing content) the importance of its data and the substantive role that data could play in building enterprise value. Today, we know that Netflix data (which isn’t shared externally) drives its development, production and distribution strategies and decisions. Its data is driving its growth, and growth is everything — especially when everything is up for grabs.

I believe 2016 will be another interesting chapter in the disruptive market of streaming video. The platforms, industries and brands that are at the center of this disruption will continue to innovate or pay the price. The stakes are too high to not heed the warning signs.

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