Just a few months in the past, I found a brand new style of YouTube video. It’s known as the “prolonged spotlight,” and it sometimes takes the type of a video someplace between eight and 18 minutes lengthy, with rapid-fire leap cuts between all crucial elements of a recreation.
Since I embraced the glory of the prolonged spotlight, I really feel like I’ve watched extra sports activities than ever. I’ve seen each Arsenal purpose and almost-goal, each cool Steph Curry shot for the Warriors, each Daniel Jones run for the Giants, each Aaron Choose strikeout or house run for the Yankees. However I hardly ever, if ever, sit and watch a recreation. I used to! However why would I now? All the great elements are proper there on YouTube just a few hours later.
A lot has been made over the past decade about how spotlight tradition is altering sports activities. (Ruining it, some may say.) For some time, there was an ethical panic about SportsCenter’s bite-size renditions of sports activities. Then it was Home of Highlights on Instagram that was threatening to grow to be the most important factor in sports activities TV as viewers began to care extra about sick dunks than remaining scores. And certainly, the entire sports activities fan expertise has shifted! Younger viewers comply with particular person gamers reasonably than groups; they care in regards to the off-field tales and personalities as a lot because the on-field outcomes; they actually do love scrolling via highlights on TikTok. Leagues, groups, and broadcasters have caught up and at the moment are embracing these platforms and angles greater than ever. Now, everyone’s additionally speaking about playing and fantasy and the way these are altering the best way we discuss sports activities.
That is simply… the sport. Minus all of the boring elements.
However prolonged highlights really feel like a unique factor altogether. This isn’t “the one play you wanted to see from the sport”; it’s… the sport. Solely shorter. It’s just like the radio edit of a tune or the TV minimize of a film — it simply chops out the boring bits, and most of the people are going to love it higher in consequence. Eighteen minutes of a 90-minute soccer recreation is sufficient to present the beginning lineups, the kickoff, each significant scoring alternative, each yellow and pink card, each nook kick, and each cool dribbling transfer that finally ended nowhere. No, you don’t get to see the three minutes of buildup that led to the purpose, which is what purists will let you know is the entire level of the sport. However you do get a way of the move, the momentum, the vibe of the sport. It’s a remarkably full retelling in a tiny fraction of the time.
Virtually each main sport and league provides these prolonged highlights, and I type of can’t consider all of them do. Dwell sports activities are the most costly, most coveted factor within the media world proper now, and also you’re simply providing a close to approximation at no cost on YouTube? (To be clear, I like it. Please don’t cease although it looks as if a horrible enterprise determination.) Embracing the web as a sports activities distribution instrument was the proper name — I’m undecided making supercuts of each recreation was.
Pitch clocks made baseball sooner. Prolonged highlights make baseball means sooner.
I additionally suppose prolonged highlights is likely to be a clue about the way forward for sports activities. The web-ification of sports activities has lengthy been taking place in refined methods — sports activities tweaking their guidelines to be just a bit extra thrilling and extra action-packed, extra simply packaged right into a TikTok or Reel. Simply this 12 months, Main League Baseball made the bases bigger and outlawed some very efficient protection, which implies steals and runs are each up. Extra highlights!
The web-ification of sports activities has lengthy been taking place in refined methods
However the MLB additionally instituted a pitch clock, which has made video games upward of 25 minutes shorter. And there are much more excessive examples coming. Take the Kings League, a brand new soccer league fashioned partially by soccer celebrity Gerard Piqué. It’s seven-on-seven soccer on groups owned by well-known streamers, with all types of tweaks designed to make the video games sooner and extra chaotic. There’s no stunning recreation right here; there may be, as an alternative, the “golden card” that groups draw earlier than the sport that claims issues like “any purpose scored within the subsequent minute counts double” or “on the spot penalty.” And the entire recreation is barely 40 minutes lengthy.
Or there’s LIV Golf, the brand new (and wildly controversial) competitor to the PGA Tour that turned tournaments from 4 rounds into three. It has fewer rivals and begins extra of them on the identical time, which implies the day’s spherical goes way more rapidly. The purpose, as with the Kings League, is to ensure one thing thrilling is all the time taking place and to make all of it occur sooner.
It is smart, proper? As viewers, so many issues are competing for our consideration that hardly anybody needs to look at a pitcher scratch his nostril or two defenders kick a ball backwards and forwards for 38 seconds. In 2023, even an 18-minute video is lots to ask viewers to give attention to. Sports activities, identical to different kinds of leisure, don’t have any selection however to make all the pieces transfer at a blistering tempo or danger dropping viewers to the TikTok app on their telephones. After all, when sports activities push tougher and get sooner, that creates room for brand new and completely different sorts of content material surrounding the video games. Which implies much more competitors. It’s exhausting to see how any of it ever slows down.
It’s wild how a lot of a basketball recreation you’ll be able to match into 9 minutes and 12 seconds.
For a very long time, the sports activities world has seen YouTube with a form of side-eyed confusion. Some noticed it as an encroaching drive threatening the primacy of their reside video games — the NFL, specifically, made a behavior out of choosing copyright fights with anybody who a lot as tweeted a recreation spotlight. Others noticed YouTube as a useful option to expose extra folks to their greatest content material. “We’re extremely protecting of our reside recreation rights,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver mentioned again in 2016. “However for essentially the most half, highlights are advertising and marketing.”
That’s most likely nonetheless true, particularly within the context of “have a look at this cool purpose.” Which may flip non-fans into informal ones and make folks need to watch extra. However watching the prolonged highlights of Arsenal vs. Liverpool didn’t make me need to go watch extra — it made me really feel like I’d watched all the pieces. And it solely took 16 minutes.