When NFL free agency opens each team, team staffers like the New York Giants’ Nilay Shah are usually on high alert.
Shah, the Giants’ vice president of digital marketing, and his team typically spend those first few days of the signing window capturing content as players come to the facility that fans eagerly consume, ranging from photos of the player signing their contract or that first on-camera interview as a member of their new team.
However, as the coronavirus pandemic has largely shut down NFL facilities nationwide and Shah and his team work from home, the Giants have pivoted their efforts to focus on YouTube, where the team is hoping to connect with fans who have little sports to watch otherwise.
“The things that we lose out on is that typically, a player will come to our facility to sign his contract, and we’re able to capture a lot of content across all of our platforms,” Shah said. “Whether it’s photos of a player signing or the first interview, obviously we’re not able to do that right now.”
In lieu of fresh content, the Giants have released videos that use archive footage but have a broader free agency theme on their YouTube page. One clip centered around former free-agent quarterback Kerry Collins’ contributions to the Giants’ Super Bowl XXXV appearance and another focused on the 2007 and 2011 free-agent classes that brought two Super Bowls to the Meadowlands.
Another effort has seen the Giants curating full-length game broadcasts from their historical archives and relaunching them on YouTube. They include games like the 2011, 2007, and 1990 Super Bowls, and some of the team’s more memorable playoff experiences in recent memory.
“Despite not having live sports, they could still watch our Super Bowl or watch our 2007 NFC championship game,” Shah said. “We thought that was a good way of giving our fans some distractions during this time period and still having the feel of watching a game.”
Thus far, the increased interest in YouTube is showing signs of success for the Giants. Between August 1, 2019, and March 1, 2020, subscribership increased by 34,500. There were more than 504,700 total hours of content watched – with an average view time per video of 4:32 – and 6.7 million views on the platform.
Since August 2019, the team has seen a 400% growth in subscribers, a 1,000% increase in hours watched, a 600% increase in total views, and average view time per video increase 100%.
The team’s YouTube account has 62,800 subscribers, as of March 17.
It’s not only old Giants coverage that Shah has seen resonate well on YouTube. When Joe Judge was named the team’s new head coach in January, he and his staff used that to launch a new YouTube show, “Giants Life: Blueprint.”
Created as a Hard Knocks-esque feature on the behind-the-scenes of the Giants’ football operations, the first episode documenting the Judge hire debuted on February 7. With a running time of 13:36, episode one has already seen a 60% completion percentage and nearly 93,500 views, Shah said.
Episode two opened with Giants quarterback Daniel Jones discussing his experience at the 2019 NFL Combine. It also offered viewers an inside look into the 2020 NFL Combine with appearances from Giants personnel, scouts, and coaches.
Since February 7, the two Giants Life: Blueprint episodes have generated more than 136,300 total views, with an average view time of 6:43. They’ve also helped attract more than 1,150 new subscribers and 110,400 unique visitors.
“We’ve started to focus on the right thumbnails, the right tags, the right caption descriptions, and that’s led to some really good growth for us on that platform,” Shah said.
What Shah admires about YouTube is the Giants’ ability to go deeper with their content. Over the next several months, the platform offers New York plenty of chances to create long-form videos around significant events like free agency, the 2020 NFL Draft, preseason, and most notably, the regular season.
“The beauty of that is we can go longer, we can be more descriptive, and we’ve seen that – the longer the videos are, the more views we get,” Shah said. “People are willing to sit on that platform and look for that content.”
“It’s funny, we’re always looking for the short-form content across the broader social platforms, but really on YouTube, it’s the one platform that we can go pretty detailed and aggressive in terms of length and still not have a major drop-off in viewership,” he added.