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Classic Games On YouTube Proving To Be A Hit For Steelers And NFL

  • With fans staying at home, both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL have put a heavy focus on YouTube.
  • After seeing a near 1,000% rise in engagement rate, the Steelers’ YouTube involvement has helped the league develop best practices to share with other clubs.
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Following the NFL’s lead in putting old games on YouTube, the Pittsburgh Steelers are diving deeper into the platform.

From full-length player interviews and highlight packages to even old Super Bowl rebroadcasts, YouTube has been of interest for the Steelers during the coronavirus pandemic, Ryan Huzjak, the team’s vice president of marketing and sales, said .

“Those types of content don’t really work all that well on our other social media platforms – like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even our website,” Huzjak said. “Those tend to be used a little bit differently, so YouTube has really settled in for us as a nice place for longer-form content, which I think is what the channel is meant to be used for.”

Since March 18, the NFL has offered complimentary access to NFL Game Pass, an extensive library of football programming for fans. The league has also offered full-game encores each day across NFL.com, the NFL app, and its official YouTube channel. 

The NFL has made an additional 96 daily-encore games available for distribution across the league’s various platforms. Phase one of this plan began on March 18 – with each club receiving one additional full game to rebroadcast – and concluded on April 18. 

On March 29, the Steelers used YouTube Premieres to bring fans to a livestream of their Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Arizona Cardinals. YouTube Premieres allows users to schedule a video upload and create a public watch page that they can share, similar to a movie or TV show premiere.

READ MORE: New York Giants Hunker Down With YouTube For Offseason Content

Re-airing Super Bowl XLIII on the Steelers’ YouTube page allowed for real-time interaction between viewers and former Steelers players, including James Harrison, Santonio Holmes, and Heath Miller.

The Steelers’ Livestream Premiere garnered more than 151,000 views – 192% more than average for other club live game premieres. Its 2.1 million total minutes watched was a 214% increase, while impressions (1.4 million, +36%), unique viewers (+155%), and engagement rate (+974%) were all up. 

“Obviously it was not live – it was a re-air – but we behaved as if [Super Bowl XLIII] was happening live and we were able to engage with some of our former players who were key figures in the game and then push that out to other platforms,” Huzjak said. That allowed us to engage and have some fun and get some reaction as if it was happening right then and there.”

Phase two of the daily-encore games began on April 30 after the 2020 NFL Draft. All 32 teams are allowed to select their own games to rebroadcast and are encouraged to reach out to fans when choosing.

While phase two is less than two weeks old, the Steelers’ successful experimentation with YouTube Premieres is being used as a blueprint to share with other teams, according to a league spokesperson. 

READ MORE: St. Louis Blues Bring Cup Run To YouTube While Awaiting More Games

“We are excited to see the efforts made by our clubs like the Steelers to utilize YouTube in a way that creates deeper engagement points with our fans,” the NFL spokesperson added. “The success of activations like this help us develop best practices to share with other clubs.”

Based on their experience thus far, Huzjak and the Steelers are looking to continue revisiting their past triumphs on YouTube. Fans can expect to see the team rebroadcast its other five Super Bowl-winning performances over the next 30 to 60 days, Huzjak said.

Not only have fans enjoyed relishing the old games, but Huzjak has seen from fan responses that they are even happier sharing them with former Steelers legends. 

As a result, he wants to begin prioritizing content that offers a behind-the-scenes look into the Steelers’ current and past history. 

With help from the league, the Steelers have also been able to monetize based on some of these key performance metrics, Huzjak said. In the future, he hopes to incorporate more key partners and sponsors to create larger opportunities for variable income. 

While Huzjak is not looking past the Steelers’ 30-to-60-day YouTube strategy, he believes that the platform has allowed them to tell their story in a way that is different from their other social media platforms. 

“In the last year, we grew 61% in terms of subscribers,” Huzjak said. “We’re just seeing more people subscribing to our channel and then obviously more people viewing, clicking, and spending time there as well.”

Correction: May 13, 2020

An earlier version of this article misstated who is making the daily-encore games available, as well as what the Steelers’ Livestream Premiere compared against. It is against other club live game premieres.

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