Sunday 26th May 2019

Manchester United Grows MUTV to Target New Regions, Younger Fans

Manchester United Grows MUTV to Target New Regions, Younger Fans

Manchester United Grows MUTV to Target New Regions, Younger Fans
Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United speak following a Premier League against Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Manchester United is continuing to use its over-the-top channel, MUTV, to target younger and more geographically diverse fans.

The storied English Premier League club has expanded the reach of the OTT network to Amazon Fire, Roku, Apple TV, and Xbox, added some free digital content to entice new subscribers, changed the pricing structure, and built new broadcast studios at its home stadium, Old Trafford.

“Ultimately, the mandate for us is to just constantly grow our reach and engagement,” said Manchester United’s CEO of media, Phil Lynch.

MUTV is in its 20th season of operation, but previously the entirety of its content had been subscription-based. Until last year, the channel was only a linear service. The average age of viewers for that traditional channel was 54, Lynch said, but the new OTT version of the product has an average age just north of 30. Roughly 40 percent of subscribers for the direct-to-consumer (DTC) offering are based in the U.S.

Because of broadcast rights restrictions, MUTV only carries radio feeds of Premier League matches but also offers under-23 and under-18 matches, interviews, press conferences, and a portfolio of features and behind-the-scenes programming. The one exception has been Manchester United’s recent international tour of friendlies and International Champions Cup matches—those broadcasts have been carried in full on MUTV. The channel launched what Lynch called its “free front porch” of videos in front of the paywall prior to the tour.

“The main strategy behind going DTC was so that we could collect our own data in terms of what users are watching, how they’re watching, when they’re logging off, what content is not performing well,” Lynch said, adding that MUTV is trying to “solidify that voice and tone and consumer expectation but using all of the data that we’re collecting to drive those decisions.”

Manchester United is not limiting its content to MUTV and is endeavoring to grow its social channels as well. Lynch said his team won’t run the same video across all social media, but instead really caters the programming to each platform. As of Thursday morning, Man U’s YouTube channel, which launched in late February, is just shy of one million subscribers. Lynch said the club expects to reach seven figures within days or weeks. In comparison, no other peer club hit that milestone within six years. To ensure a good fan experience, MUTV doesn’t monetize any of the content on its social channels, although it does run promotions and creative content for partners.

Tweaking the MUTV pricing methodology to include six-month and full-season plans, instead of just a monthly pass, has helped convert new subscribers. Lynch said there has been nearly 40 percent adoption of the new season pass.

Few clubs were in the content business back in 1998 when MUTV debuted. In two decades of operation, Manchester United has learned what does and doesn’t work, and the need to market its athletes beyond their in-game exploits. 

“It’s important to overlay your own voice and tone and bring a little more human or personal or lifestyle element out of some of the players,” Lynch said.

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