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

March Madness is heading into the Final Four this weekend, buzzer beaters abound, and interest in the tournament is spiking from fans and viewers across the country. Zefr has compiled the first ever data-driven list of the top March Madness buzzer beaters based on views and uploads, along with some insights into what viewers are watching – and when – around March Madness content on YouTube.

The way people watch live sports tournaments is going digital. More and more, fans are tuning in not for full games but for the big plays and highlights that are most exciting. 2016’s March Madness final saw the lowest viewership in 18 years as the game switched to a cable-only broadcast. Viewers are cutting the cord, but they’re not giving up on March Madness content. Instead, they’re watching it via social video, across digital platforms. We looked into all the March Madness content on YouTube and came up with the following insights, also in an infographic below:

  • In addition to the 3.4 million live streams of last year’s final, Zefr found 167 million views on March Madness related videos in total on the social video platform.
  • Views and uploads spike 551% during first weekend of the tournament, when all 64 teams are have a shot and fans are still invested. Interest rebounds (but not as high) for the Final Four and through the championship.
  • Basketball fans tune in not for the full games, for the big plays – 45% of both views and uploads were on highlights and clips from past games.
  • Our top buzzer beater – from Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, occurred just last year but saw more viewership than any other, indicating that digital appetites are high – and only increasing.

Cultural Trends

This is a series that spotlights culturally significant and popular uploads to YouTube, curated monthly by ZEFR Insights.

1. Chile’s Calbuco Volcano

For the first time in four decades and without warning, the Calbuco volcano erupted on April 22, 2015. The eruption lasted 90 minutes and sent a plume of volcanic ash six miles into the sky. While there have been no recorded injuries, according to news reports, thousands have been evacuated from nearby town Ensenada. The most disruptive hazard from this eruption has been the resulting falling ash, which has covered regions as far as 165 miles north of the volcano under a thin layer of dust. Considering there have been no reported injuries or casualties, YouTube viewers can happily bask in the glorious colors captured by this clip expressing nature’s boundless unpredictability.

2. Seth Meyers Brings Jon Snow to a Dinner Party

Jon Snow is a terrible dinner guest. This was proven when Seth Meyers invited the Game of Thrones character, played by Kit Harington, to a dinner party on Late Night. While other guests politely chit-chatted about the arrival of spring, Jon warned them, “You won’t be laughing when the White Walkers rip you from limb to limb.” Jon Snow is great at a lot of things (being on Game of Thrones, for instance), but keep him away from the dinner table.

3. Star Wars: Battlefront

The day after the much-talked about Star Wars: Episode VII trailer was released, the video-game trailer, Star Wars: Battlefront, was also revealed. The video game stays true to the films and was shot in the original movie locations, “Not to just capture the environment, but the emotions they evoke as well.” The Battlefront trailer has been out for over a week and already has more than sixteen million views. The game is available for sale starting November 17th for PS4, PC, and Xbox One.

4. Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry has been lighting up the basketball court since his March Madness days at Davidson College, and he continues to amaze year after year as a pro as a member of the Golden State Warriors. With the 2015 NBA Playoffs tipping off this April, Curry has once again emerged as a highlight-reel goldmine on YouTube. Recently, Curry led the Warriors to a 20-point fourth-quarter comeback against the Pelicans, capped off with a game-tying, three-point shot that people can’t stop watching.

5. David Hasselhoff

Have you ever wondered what David Hasselhoff looks like riding a dinosaur? Well, your lucky day has arrived. The ‘80s icon performs the theme song, “True Survivor,” for the Kickstarter campaign to fund the film, Kung Fury. The music video has since gone viral with over 8 million views. This epic music clip is a veritable collision course of mashups, featuring time travel, dinosaurs, ‘80s cop movies, and kung-fu.

The Kickstarter-funded film had a modest starting goal of raising $200,000. By the end of the month, the campaign inspired 17,713 backers to pledge $630,019 to help bring the project to life. Kung Fury will be released on YouTube on May 28th.


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Cultural TrendsEvents

Following in the footsteps of YouTube’s deal with the NFL to launch its official channel, now YouTube has partnered with Turner Sports to create an official March Madness channel for this year’s NCAA College Basketball Tournament. It’s important to realize that YouTube has become impossible for sports franchises to ignore. The everlasting popularity of official game highlights is just one example of the countless ways teams and leagues can thrive on YouTube, a platform that continues to defy expectations. Thanks to the open nature of YouTube, fans can engage with their favorite sports and teams from every possible angle (sometimes literally).

To illustrate the enormous depth and breadth of YouTube, and the opportunities it presents for brands, we traced the journey of a basketball player from those earliest practice layups, to impressing the scouts, to the tournament-clinching buzzer beaters, to the most high-flying NBA dunks—all by watching YouTube from the comfort of our ergonomic standing desks.

“How-to” Videos: Developing the Fundamentals

For anyone trying to learn a skill, YouTube has become a go-to destination thanks to the enormous collection of “how-to” videos. In the world of sports, these videos can become crucial for any young player trying to learn the basics, or for talented prospects looking for an edge.

A quick search for “how to shoot a basketball” will lead you to creators such as I Love Basketball TV, which describes itself as “the leading YouTube channel in Basketball Training.” With over 200K subscribers and 16.7M views to its credit, coaches around the world should be thankful for channels like these in helping to lay the groundwork for future stars.

Or, as the channel itself boasts: “If you want to get better, if you want to get motivated, if you want to have better handles, higher vertical, subscribe to our channel and we will bring you the best videos on a daily basis.”

Behind the Scenes: What it Takes to Compete

YouTube also excels at bringing you behind the scenes and into the day-to-day reality of people’s lives. The level of authenticity is something that draws you in and creates a connection with the people on the screen.

In the “10,000 Hours Basketball Series” spanning ten episodes, we get a front-row seat into the countless hours of practice, and relentless determination, of two short kids named Kyle and Mattie as they test themselves to the limit.

Scouting Prospects: Using YouTube to Discover the Next Lebron James

We can all recognize those local news stories—the ones where some local child prodigy dazzles in front of the news cameras, making it all look easy.

Take the following news story of Jashaun Agosto, when he was just 11 years old:

Thanks to YouTube and scouting channels like City League Hoops TV and Courtside Films, it’s now possible to watch prospects like Agosto progress over the years.

Here is a video of Agosto as a 17-year-old from 2014:

Need another example? Check out this video of Jordan McCabe at 12 years of age, already being touted as a “prodigy and phenom”:

Later, McCabe made an appearance with the legendary Harlem Globetrotters:

With smartphone cameras pointed at every promising child athlete, it’s hard to imagine a future star without these kinds of videos being unearthed, documenting their earliest moments on the court.

March Madness Domination: Pulling Through in the Clutch

Once these young players enter college, it’s time to show whether these kids can handle the pressure of the world’s biggest knockout tournament. If they succeed, YouTube is ready to highlight their best moments.

As mentioned above, 2015 is the first year that an official March Madness YouTube channel will be following the action. With that in mind, we ran some numbers to see what the unofficial, fan-uploaded content has looked like over the years:

march madness uploads on youtube

videos and views march madness

March Madness Video Trends

The most common video trends to be found for March Madness are all about the highlights. The “greatest this” and “top that” videos are everywhere:

“Greatest NCAA Tournament Buzzer Beaters”

“Top 25 NCAA Tournament Upsets of All Time”

There’s plenty more where those came from. Because YouTube is an archive of culture, it’s where super fans turn in order to satisfy their desire for more content. Checking their brackets alone just won’t cut it anymore.

Best of the NBA: From Pro to Legend

Once a player beats the odds and their hoop dreams become reality, saying you are a full-time professional is only step one when it comes to YouTube. If you really want to leave your mark on sports history, YouTube serves as a good indicator for separating the role players from the legends.

While it’s one thing to be featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays for the night, the real achievement is getting into a “best of all time” YouTube compilation—a video that will be judged for generation of players to come.

If you find yourself flying high in a video titled, “Top 100 NBA Dunks of All Time,” you know you are on the right path:

And, in case you are vertically challenged and dunk highlight reels are out of the question, there are always the “NBA Top Ankle Breakers of All Time” videos to aspire to:

Takeaway: YouTube is the Ultimate Bracket Buster

Whatever your passion, YouTube has a level of depth and breadth to it that you simply can’t find anywhere else. Sure, watching the games alone might be enough for the average fan. But, if you are obsessed with a certain team or player, where can you turn for the most engaging and authentic content? Where else can you watch something you love from every era? Behind-the-scenes footage? Curated compilations? “How-to” videos?

With 300 hours of footage being uploaded to YouTube every minute, the platform forces you to rethink the boundaries of content, and it takes real expertise to fully understand all it can offer.


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Cultural Trends

This is the second in a series that spotlights culturally significant and popular topics on YouTube, curated monthly by ZEFR Insights. The videos below are just a glimpse of what these topics look like, as YouTube trends tend to cover a lot of ground. Be sure to subscribe right here to get future posts (and only future posts) delivered by email.

1. The Apple Watch

March is when the world finally started seeing hands-on reviews of the Apple Watch. And, if you weren’t lucky enough to get invited to a demo, YouTube became the go-to destination for fans to see it in action.

The coverage began with a fairly positive review from Buzzfeed. However, when looking at the most-viewed videos, it appears that the YouTube audience isn’t quite convinced yet by the watch’s usefulness. Check out this clever parody video (with 4 million views) from comedy duo Smosh:

CollegeHumor also created a parody, first touting the watch as “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking,” then proceeded to poke fun at the ridiculous 10-thousand-dollar price tag of the luxurious gold watch:

“The best ten thousand dollars you’ll ever spend… until two years from now when you need to buy another one.”

Whether you take these parodies seriously or not, they do point to the power of YouTube to convey consumer sentiment. Though, you can’t argue with the numbers – Apple reported record-high earnings in their first quarter.

2. March Madness

In the midst of the March Madness madness, a surprisingly endearing moment took place during a post-game interview. Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes was having fun testing the stenographer by throwing out words like “cattywampus” and “soliloquy.” Later, thinking the microphone was off, he turned to his teammate Frank Kaminsky and whispered, “God, she’s beautiful.” His face when he realizes everyone in the room heard his comment is, quite frankly, adorable. The video has since gone viral with over 8 million views in less than a week.

3. The Cricket World Cup

Did you know cricket is the world’s second most popular sport? It is played by 120 million players all over the world. (And, in case cricket is as foreign to you as Whackbat, feel free to take some time to educate yourself about the sport.) The 11th Cricket World Cup was co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand this year, lasting from February 14th to March 29. Australia defeated New Zealand by seven wickets to win their fifth ICC Cricket World Cup.

4. Zoolander 2

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson reprised their roles as Derek and Hansel and took over the Maison Valentino runway during Paris Fashion Week. Their epic walk-off set social media fire to Snapchat, Vine, and Twitter. After the show, Derek and Hansel took to the Eiffel Tower, where they posed with models, tourists, and selfie sticks. Because what else is there in life when you’re really, really, ridiculously good looking? The movie is set to hit theaters February 12, 2016.

5. #DearMe

On March 8th, in honor of International Women’s Day, YouTube started the #DearMe campaign  “to inspire and empower young girls everywhere.”  The movement asks, “What advice would you give to your younger self?” YouTubers from all over the world shared advice and words of encouragement to their young viewers. Grace Helbig encouraged her viewers to “follow your fears,” and Lindsey Stirling shared the advice that “confidence is key.”

YouTube Marketing Manager Cathy Tang wrote a blog post saying, “YouTube is a place where people can come together, share interests, relate experiences and offer each other support.”

6. Spectre

The latest installment in the James Bond franchise, Spectre, starring Daniel Craig, just revealed its first teaser trailer and fans are going wild for it. In just five days, views of the teaser on YouTube have already amassed 11M views and counting. Unlike previous Bond films, Spectre is not a standalone film, but a continuation of storylines that began when Daniel Craig took over the role of  James Bond from Pierce Brosnan. So if you’re not caught up, start with Casino Royale. Sit back, pour yourself a martini (shaken, not stirred) and enjoy.

Spectre is scheduled for release on November 6, 2015.


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