"We are disrupting the status quo in the media sector"
1- Today, AFTV is a well-recognised platform among football fans around the world for its unique format. This new way of communicating, by giving centre stage to the average football fan, was a success right from the start?
A: Right from the start I had a hunch that football fans needed an outlet for their opinions and passion. I became bored with the mundane approach of the pundits commenting before and after the game. I wanted to hear the authentic opinions of fans themselves, and instinctively felt that if I could capture the voice of the fan before and after the game, it would be popular. From the very first set of videos I put out, it felt like a concept that would work. Those videos were the birth of the Fan Cam which has since become a cornerstone of our content. I obviously didn’t get the numbers then that we get now, but I knew that I was onto something good.
2 - In your opinion, what is the main reason for AFTV's success?
A: We have succeeded in disrupting the traditional sports media broadcast models by appealing to fans, with authentic, fan-led content. The immediacy and quick turn-around nature of digital media allows us to deliver relevant content, quickly and at a fraction of the price of the big broadcasters. This has appeal to brands too as we appeal to a large sector of a sought-after market. We regularly receive more engagement and views than the main broadcasters, because our content is authentic, inclusive, accessible to a world-wide audience and appeals to the digital generation.
3- Do you feel that this format can be used in other sports or is football an almost unique case?
A: Our DR Sports channel was set up two years ago, to expand the concept of democratising the sports conversation, across other sports, and we now create content to represent all the English Premier League teams, as well as sports such as boxing, tennis and F1. This year, we started a new F1 channel, On Track GP, in conjunction with Planet F1 and it is growing steadily.
4 - During the pandemic, AFTV started betting on live Watch Alongs on Youtube. What has been the feedback from your audience regarding this format change?
A: We had to find creative ways of keeping the fan spirit alive during the pandemic. Our Watch Alongs were well received at a time when people could not leave their homes, and we were able to provide them with a sense of community by livestreaming us watching the game. The Watch Alongs are still a cornerstone of our content and have been widely replicated by other people. Some of our Watch Alongs will see over 100 000 concurrent viewers. It definitely remains a popular format amongst the wide range of content that we produce.
5 - Today, there are already several fan-made channels dedicated to their clubs. Do you think you were a pioneer regarding this type of content?
A: When I started AFTV in 2012 there were very few fan-led channels around and now I see them everywhere. I would like to think that we paved the way or inspired other fans to start their own channels. We have stood the test of time and remain the world’s leading football fan channel, with over 5 million subscribers and over a billion views across all content. It is challenging at times, as there was no rule book when we started, and we continue to pave our own way in the digital era, disrupting and innovating, to find new ways to stay relevant and to engage with fans globally.
6 - Do you feel a difference in the channel numbers depending on Arsenal's results? Are there more viewers when your team loses or when it wins?
A: There is no question that virality is often fuelled by highly emotive rants. AFTV existed well before this became vogue and has adopted new policies in keeping the voice of the fans authentic, but not solely negative. It is essential we allow for authentic freedom of speech to be enjoyed, but with a clear mandate to keep it only about football, and never personal or toxic.
We often get non-subscribers from opposition teams watching AFTV if Arsenal lose a game, which can drive up the viewership numbers. Having said that, we have had some of our highest views on games that Arsenal win. We are there to hold a mirror to the climate and opinions of the day, but we remain loyal supporters of Arsenal whether they win or lose.
7 - In your opinion, will this disruptive content be the future in mainstream sports media as well?
A: The technical concept of disruption is when a smaller player can address a portion of the market (generally the larger and less financially lucrative portion) and eat into the business model of the incumbent. For example, what digital photography did to Kodak.
We are disrupting the status quo in the media sector by being genuinely boots-on-the-ground at stadiums and games for real-time, live authentic reactions from actual fans, and creating gritty and authentic studio and reality content. Traditional broadcasters give a nod to this space, but they remain focussed on fans that can afford increasingly expensive offerings.
The real disruption is in our business model. We are low cost, high volume with exceptional reach and engagement. If mainstream sports media are able to compete using an entirely new content approach based on authenticity and social trust, and at the same low-cost production values that we produce, then we can operate in the same space.
8 - As an entrepreneur in the football industry, how relevant are events like the Thinking Football Summit to your business?
A: It is essential that like-minded people, in the same industries network together to share ideas, innovations, opportunities and to inspire each other, and this is what the Thinking Football Summit offers to those of us in the football space.
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