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Since it launched in 2010, U.K.-based publisher Unilad has been attracting large audiences by promoting “lad culture” (read: sports, sex, alcohol, funny internet memes, and anything else British “bros” might find interesting) through the brand’s many social media platforms. Recently, Unilad has ventured into sports broadcasting through a partnership with the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts (BAMMA), which would allow the men’s mag to livestreams preliminary bouts to Unilad’s nearly 20 million Facebook page likes and followers.
While the move will likely expand Unilad’s audience and result in further livestreaming opportunities, the partnership is notable because it marks a shift in how modern audiences are consuming content and the viability of Facebook Live as an independent broadcasting channel.
According to Digiday, Unilad’s CEO Liam Harrington believes the “test deal” will be mutually beneficial for both parties, saying: “I can guarantee [BAMMA] 350,000 views on each individual preliminary fight. Currently, these would only get 20,000 [television] views.”
Unilad’s impressive Facebook figures—the media company’s Facebook channel routinely ranks in the top 3 most-watched channels and netted 2.9 billion Facebook video views in August—makes the partnership an appealing one for the sports brand (Digiday).
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For Unilad, a successful foray into the world of sports broadcasting (the media company already airs the annual “Homeless Football World Cup” charity match) could mean an expansion of their large social media audience and a piece of lucrative sponsorship deals that accompany large-draw sporting events.
As audiences abandon television in favor of social media platforms and apps in record numbers, the way we experience entertainment content—even sporting events, to which television networks have long-retained broadcast rights—is undergoing a transformation.
Today, livestreaming platforms like Snapchat, YouTube, and Facebook Live provide a new and exciting way to experience sporting events and open the door to reconfigured relationships between sports leagues, publishers, and social media platforms.
Following examples set by the NBA, which partnered with Snapchat to produce exclusive content, and the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), which has found overwhelming success by releasing content on YouTube, Unilad hopes to pioneer the practice of streaming Facebook Live sports matches and expand the channels through which audiences can view sporting events and sports-related content.
Should this partnership prove successful (and early predictions say that it will), Unilad’s collaboration with BAMMA could be one of the first drops in a deluge of Facebook Live sports content that help usher in a new era of sports broadcasting online.