Vimeo, YouTube are changing sports fans' tastes, shifting culture

"Second-tier" action sports like skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding are taking a prominent place online as millennial viewers, who predominantly consume video content on smaller mobile devices, look for short-duration sports action and a more participatory experience, according to a New York Times article.

Combined with the popularity of eSports, where viewers watch a stream or live broadcast of video games being played in real-time, it signals a cultural shift among younger viewers.

Calling it a "parallel world" to long-form events like Major League Baseball, the NFL, and other sports well-suited to traditional broadcast TV, the NYT said that Google's YouTube, Vimeo and other over-the-top video outlets increasingly cater to skaters and other alternative athletes. Vimeo, in fact, dedicates some of its content curators to seeking out online videos featuring new talent among action sports participants.

On YouTube, Red Bull consistently ranks among the top three sports channels with more than 4.5 million subscribers, and action sports rank just under soccer in terms of viewer popularity.

And YouTube in late August launched Gaming, a direct competitor to Twitch, which dominates the live-streamed games segment.

The enduring and growing popularity of sports and eSports, which lend themselves well to short, high-intensity action clips, is one that should be noted by marketers, if it hasn't been already. However, some caution is warranted.

According to a new joint Strategy Analytics-Piksel study, content drives the majority of viewer video preferences; 52 percent said a "content related factor" helped spur their choice, rather than a video subscription price or pricing options. The study involved 1,200 U.S. consumers between the ages of 16 and 59 years old who had watched an online video service at least six months prior to being surveyed.

Strategy Analytics Piksel study

Relative importance of factors for online video services: content, quality, reliability rate high. (Source: Strategy Analytics)

"Understanding the importance of these consumer-choice-drivers is key to minimizing risks when building a new OTT video service," Strategy Analytics said in a press release.

For providers looking to build or grow an online video business, being aware of the differing tastes among demographics is important.

For example, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel recently ignited a feud with YouTube Gaming and Twitch fans when one of his skits, poking fun at the concept of people watching other people play video games, struck a nerve. After several days of vitriolic comments on his YouTube channel, Kimmel sat down with two prominent live-streaming gamers to learn more about the phenomenon of "Let's Play." While the entire incident was largely played up for laughs, it also starkly illustrated what can happen when one doesn't understand a potential audience. For OTT providers playing in an increasingly competitive field, that sort of backlash can be a damaging blow.

"It's clear from our study with Strategy Analytics that this depth of insight is critical to building a successful online video business," said Piksel President Fabrice Hamaide. "Often overlooked, finding the sweet spot of your target audience's preferences could represent the key differentiator to providing a service that matches a specific market's needs and considerably reducing the risk involved in launching a new service."

For more:
- see this NYT article
- see this EW article and video
- see this Strategy Analytics release

Special Report: Charting OTT's audience in Q2 2015: stats from Rentrak, comScore, Nielsen

Related articles:
Are OTT analysts asking the right questions of consumers?
Understanding new video formats: multichannel networks, Web series, eSports
YouTube Gaming goes live, poses major competition for Twitch
Premium OTT revenues will more than double by 2018, Ooyala-Vindicia report says