It isn’t inconceivable that, sometime in the not-too-distant future, football matches will no longer be 90 minutes long.
Cricket introduced T20 in 2003 and it took off. Some of tennis’ biggest stars, including Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, have called for shorter games. And there is a growing acknowledgement in football’s highest circles that the game’s current format may not have that great an appeal to younger generations of potential fans.
The Premier League’s TV rights deals have been a global phenomenon, yet in the great wrestle for screen time it is no longer only football they are competing against, but live video games, a 27-year-old American with dyed hair — more from him in a minute — and a rapidly decreasing interest in sitting for several hours watching the same thing.
Liverpool chief executive Peter Moore fears that younger fans do not want to sit for 90 minutes on a sofa watching matches and is worried by the modern viewing habits of young men in particular.
“Ninety minutes is a long time for a millennial male to sit down on a couch,” Moore said recently. “When I look at viewing and attendance figures of millennial males, I’m concerned as a chief executive of a football club that relies on the next generation of fans coming through.
“If we don’t build technological prowess as a club we will lose them. There’s so much pressure on time now and only 24 hours in a day, there are only so many hours to play Fortnite.”
The 64-year-old previously worked at video game giants Sega and EA Sports and, since joining the Merseyside club in 2017, has brought with him an acute understanding of the challenges Premier League clubs face.
Will Match of the Day see viewing figures drop?
Social-first publisher Media Chain recently released research findings that 64 per cent of young fans preferred social media sports coverage than TV broadcasts and almost half watched their sports content on websites such as YouTube rather than traditional channels.
Gary Lineker and Co at Match of the Day should be worried, too, that 57 per cent preferred to watch goals immediately online rather than wait for a longer show later on.
How many people are paying expensive monthly fees and tuning in to each match anyway? The most up-to-date viewing figures from BARB (the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board), from September last year, are not mind-blowing.
Not so super Sunday
The Super Sunday match between Everton and West Ham that month was watched by around a million people. The Super Sunday match beforehand, the lunchtime meeting between Wolves and Burnley, drew only 271,000 (the ‘Super’ in that title really stretches into hyperbolic infinity on occasion). The day before, the lunchtime kickoff between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool reached 900,000. At the start of the season, Manchester United’s 3-0 defeat to Spurs was watched by a million.
Newspapers, we are often told, are past-it, forgotten relics, artefacts future generations will marvel at as they crumble between their fingertips. But plenty, albeit reaching an audience of mixed interests, are read by more on a daily basis.
It still costs Sky around £10.8million to put on each match, which will reduce to £9.3m per game in the reduced TV deal between 2019 and 2022. Some binge-watchable series would’ve been canned with that low a return on their investment.
Popular streamers on Twitch, the video game streaming platform bought by Amazon for £585m in 2014, are reaching hundreds of thousands, in many cases millions, from a room in their home. Ninja, the 27-year-old American with dyed hair (it’s currently pink) is perhaps the most famous of them and regularly has around 70,000 concurrent viewers to his streams, which last 10-plus hours with his 12m followers dipping in and out. He is known for streaming the insanely popular Fortnite and has played with Spurs and England players Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Kieran Trippier. In 2018 he earned around $10m.
Premier League clubs should be concerned
In April last year, according to hookit.com, Ninja generated more than 150m social interactions from his four million total followers and ranked above athletes including Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and LeBron James. In fact, not a single Premier League player was in the top 10 that month.
Ronaldo was No 2, but with 139.3m interactions from his 318.9m followers, suggesting that, funnily enough, younger generations appreciate actual interaction with their idols — kind of what social media was initially supposed to be about — rather than discussing the Juventus forward’s latest suitcase he has put his name to and shared a picture of.
In a letter to shareholders in January, streaming giants Netflix revealed they are more concerned with competition from Fortnite than they are rivals such as Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO. Premier League clubs should be as concerned as they and Liverpool’s chief executive are, too.
This post originally appeared on iNews