The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are the first cricket account to reach 1m YouTube subscribers thanks to their engaging content and their loyal fanbase. For Digital Sport, Josh Raisey spoke to Steven Dent, Social Media Manager, ECB, to understand how video became so successful for this rights holder.
What is your favourite piece of content on the channel?
There’s lots of different bits of content on the channel that are brilliant. I think, personally, some of the documentary side of things that we’ve done this year has been fantastic. All of that’s come out this year, in fact, which is even better. I love the personality side of things, so Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid did a quiz with each other, which was a fantastically funny video and it did exceptionally well for us. Adil and Mo have a great relationship with each other so that was fantastic.
But the channel on the whole has so many fantastic videos from all our different highlights from all our different competitions from county cricket to England cricket which has been great. It’s been a real success story for us.
Who does the ECB draw influence from when it comes to content creation on their channel?
We’re always looking for inspiration from either different sports or the entertainment industry or lots of different areas. We know that, in the one regard, with our YouTube channel the main thing that we have is cricket highlights and the archive and we use that to the best of our ability to get that out there the best we can. [We’re always looking at] trying to get as much inspiration from American sports or the entertainment industry when it comes to funny and different content. We’re always having conversations here in the YouTube team about the different styles of content we can produce. So we get our inspiration form lots of different areas both from this country and further afield, but I think that’s a good way to get a content mix on a channel such as this.
Do you ever foresee a live cricket match broadcast on YouTube – in much the same way the BT channel showed Champions League football?
I think it’s certainly part of the conversation. We know that live content on YouTube is something that will do exceptionally well for us, we know that live content does help the algorithms and helps make sure our content gets seen by more people and there’s more watch time on it, so it’s something that we’re always looking at and considering to see if we can do.
Obviously, there’s always a rights restriction in place in certain areas and not in others, so it’s something that, as the future unfolds, we’ll look at and see if it’s right for us. I think we’ve noticed that there’s lots of different ways people consume content; live is obviously one of them and there’s fantastic work that our broadcasters and others do around live content. Also, on-demand content works exceptionally well, so getting that balance is always a good thing. But live content down the line might well be something that we will look at if we feel that it’s the right thing, and the rights all line up perfectly as well.
Which other channels on YouTube would you say engage with sports fans well?
From a sport point of view, I personally am a big fan of the NBA channels. I love what a lot of our county cricket channels do as well. I think some fantastic stuff is done by the likes of Somerset, Surrey and Derbyshire, and they all play around in this content world on YouTube. I think, for me, I enjoy watching the England Football team and what they’ve done this year. That’s been really interesting to see what they did during the World Cup seeing as we have a World Cup coming next year. It’s always nice to see what resonates and what does well on those channels.
So there’s a few in there, but I’m personally a big fan of American sports as well. I’m always looking to see what types of things they’re doing. They seem to be a little further ahead sometimes so it’s always nice to take a few things from those guys as well.
What are your plans going into 2019 for the ECB YouTube channel, particularly with the World Cup and the Ashes?
On a simple level, more of the same. We know what we’ve done this year has worked and worked exceptionally well, so we definitely want to continue doing what has worked well with the highlights and the archives and things like that.
We’re always trying to broaden out and what is always a challenge during a World Cup is ensuring that video content is front and centre. We don’t have any rights for our social channels during the World Cup- they all belong to the ICC- so that presents a different challenge for us. It’s one that we faced with the Women’s World Cup last year but it is an interesting time as we get to try and experiment with new content, so we will do a lot of work in and around the team. Specifically, we’re always looking to build up the personalities of players as best that we can. So we will look ahead and play around with the campaign around the World Cup which can integrate fantastically with YouTube, which is great.
Then with the Ashes itself, we do have the rights there as well as the Ireland Test that England have got, which is going to be momentous for Ireland and a nice piece of history for cricket. So we have a lot of things that we do have rights for, and will be able to maximise those rights as best we can, and present them in ways that are digestible and fun.
We’ve got a few bits of content coming up later on this year which may give a different take on the ‘How to’ video which we’ll want to do more of next year. Also, we’re keen to build a series of content so people keep coming back for the channel for things that they know and love. When you see the likes of Dude Perfect and F2Freestylers out there, who are fantastic at building a series of content, we want to do the same with the content we have available to use.
In the immediate future, with the Test series with Sri Lanka, do you have a different strategy covering that, with regards to the different time zones?
It’s always an interesting one, time zones and the winter tours. The most interesting one we have, where we feel that we have close to 24 hour coverage across all our channels, is when we play the Ashes in the winter time. That tends to be a huge amount of work around the clock for everyone who’s either in Australia or the UK.
Again, with Sri Lanka this winter, we will be doing our absolute best to ensure with our channel that, when people wake up, they get the best update of where play is at at that point in time, not just on YouTube but on other channels as well. With the World Cup next year, we don’t have the rights, so it’s how do we put on our archives to ensure that our video is ready and waiting for people. We look at things in such minutiae, such as, if England were batting, we would probably release a batting video, or if England are playing really well, we’ll look at that side of things to make sure the archive is relevant. But on our other channels, we’ve got that ability to play around with the live content and make sure that people are paying attention at the right moments. We know we get a small spike when people wake up in the morning when cricket is going on, so we’ll make sure we try and get out content ready for that moment.
We’re really lucky, we’ve got the Women’s World T20 this November, so there’s going to be a few days there where we get Test Match cricket during most of the day, then a little break, and then into the evening we’ve got the Women’s World T20 games, so we’re going to have a pretty full-on fews days there where there’s lots of content but it’s a fantastically fun time to be able to show off both the men and women’s England teams on our account.
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