Social media live aka “the Netflix of sports”

I came across some impressing numbers when it comes to the potential of live broadcasting on social media and I would like to share them, along with my thoughts on the topic, with you. 

Attracting new viewers to watch a certain game/sport is getting tougher and tougher each year since the selection of sports is bigger than ever before and because in the last few years we have experienced several new ways of watching sports outside of the stadium. Not so long ago, if you wanted to watch live sports away from the “battlefields” you were limited to TV or paying subscriptions and watching on mobile devices, but nowadays it is all about wherever and whenever you want to watch your favorite team play.  It’s like Netflix but it’s free and on a screen that suits your needs! By looking at the different TV-rights deals, it is still only the most popular sports that are being broadcasted.

Do you remember those days when you could watch sports for free? Back in the day, at least in Sweden, we had the opportunity to watch several big sports for free on TV. But, what about the youth games with tomorrow’s talents or less popular sports, especially when it comes to international games? None of these have an easy way to market their games and sports.

Let us take a look at this issue from a different perspective. For example, Netflix can be watched on a variety of devices, just as we can access social media from different devices. With Netflix, you do not need to rely on TV program for good content, and it’s the same with sports. You do not need to rely on TV to show (market) your sports team or league. With a media platform that (nearly) everyone can access on all devices, sports that get limited or no time on TV, but want to grow their fanbase and showcase themselves to potential viewers, and especially sponsors, should seriously look at social media as their media house. Great example and a what could be called a Facebook Live success story is the FIBA youth tournament.   

FIBA broadcasted their own youth basketball tournaments with Facebook Live and Youtube. They have shown that youth basketball is a global and highly consumed sport. Just look at these numbers:

“Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and YouTube are bidding to stream the NFL’s Thursday night games”.
– Kurt Wagner, Recode

million total live views

Peak concurrent viewership

This numbers are from the Live-streaming of the U-17 World Championships for men and women, which took place in Spain in June and July 2016:

5.6m …total live views (3.1m Facebook; 2.5m YouTube)

1.9m …views on YouTube for the men’s games (129 per cent up from 2014)

600k …views for the women’s games (350 per cent increase from 2014)

200k… live viewers across both platforms (111,230 Facebook; 85,231 YouTube) for round-of-16 men’s game between Australia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the biggest live audience ever for a youth basketball game

24k …peak concurrent viewership, just 1,000 short of the record for the 2014 Fiba Basketball World Cup

Pretty good numbers if you ask me! Ever since Facebook launched Facebook Live we have seen more interactions from different sports team where they have broadcasted practices, pre-game preparations, as well as live games. But Youtube and Facebook are not alone as we have seen. This past year live broadcasting has been more implemented and used across Instagram and Twitter too.

Live engagement can have such an incredible effect with Facebook Live!!!

Since more and more people spend a great amount of time on social platforms, that must mean something, right? If sports wants to become more accessible and broaden their reach, they need to use social media’s live streaming option. Another good example of the potential that Facebook Live offers comes from one of the worls’d biggest brands – Real Madrid. When they broadcasted live on Facebook they generated 110 million views! And sure, they already have a global fan base and sure, they are broadcasted by the big TV networks, but despite that they showed that live posts have a good reach and a possiblity to attract new fans.

NBA have also broadcasted live on Facebook. They streamed a game live but only to citizens in India, probably because one of the team’s owner is from India. But still, this live streaming option gives a huge potential to market a sport in any part of the world.

This is a great example of how live broadcasting on social media can be engaging. The potential is huge, especially when you use athletes and influencers to promote your live feed.

This is not some breakthrough news for sports marketers, but the data insights you gain from posting on social media is necessary and good to compare when applying live broadcasting because this could (at least for smaller sport organizations) mean a great new exposure ability and could be used to find new sponsors/partners.

When it comes to Twitter Live, golf has done a lot of different partnerships with Twitter, and from this year the PGA Tour is being broadcasted live for more than 70 hours in 31 competitions for free.

NFL is another professional league that streamed 10 games on Twitter Live, and according to Sporttechie, the engagement and reaction were great despite a 30 second lag. A good thing with Twitter is that you do not need an account to watch a live video, it is accessible and it has a good potential to reach new fans. With this opportunity a marketer might get to those who can’t afford to buy a sports TV network subscription.

As Facebook told the Independent, and I believe this as well, social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are becoming the next media house for live sports.

La Liga recently started to broadcast their Friday night games on Facebook Live and Ligue 1 seems to be having similar thoughts. Sports teams don’t need to have a great website but they do need to focus on being on social platforms if they want to present themselves to their fans and potential investors. That’s something FIBA has shown and Chapart, the Fiba’s head of digital, said something many sports marketers should be aware of:

“If we can take you to our website to get more information, fine. But we are happy for people to stay on social media and become part of a community there”.


The benefits of social media are the simplicity of engagement from both the brands and the fans. Almost everyone has an account and it is simple, because you are one click away from being live and sharing content with your fans.

With this trend of broadcasting sports live on social media platforms, we can see less popular sports and youth games having a great potential to market their sports and find a new global fan base. Also, we can conclude that with this type of broadcasting, we are seeing the free-to-air sports broadcasting back in action but on mobile instead of the TV.


The pros (+) and cons (-) are:

+ Facebook. Twitter and Youtube have a huge global reach
Except the Asian market, where it might be more trickier to broadcast 
+ Social platforms enable an easy way for people to interact with friends/fans worldwide
You need to have a device with internet connection
+ With Twitter broadcasting the NFL, you weren’t required to have an account, which increases accessibility
Not everybody has Twitter and/or Facebook
+ If people are allowing notifications on their mobile devices they can receive a notification when someone is broadcasting live on social media. Also, if a friend of yours has shared or liked a live Facebook video, you will probably see that on your screen.

If you are watching a game on TV, nobody knows that (unless you’ve told them 😉
+ In terms of engaging the millenials, social media platforms are the place to find them.

I would be happy to hear your thoughts/opinion/experience from broadcasting live on social media), so please contact me and let me know your thoughts.

From a statement in The Independent by Facebook:

“Sports are inherently social, with the power to build and connect communities around the world. This aligns closely with our mission, and we feel Facebook is a natural home for sports content, including live games.”

Jakob Wikenstål

Jakob Wikenstål

Overtime Sports Marketing

If you have any questions about sports marketing, feel free to contact me at

footer OT logo

Copyright © 2014-2016 Overtime

Follow Overtime team:

tw icon Marijan

tw icon Vedran

tw icon Bruno

tw icon Niko