Glory Sports International kickboxing
Swedish network Glory Sports International tweets out instant replies to gain TV viewersFacebook: Glory Sports International

Sports television channels are using social media and YouTube to instantly feed their fans' appetite for content during intervals - and stop them switching over from adverts they aren't even watching.

Speaking at a London conference to discuss the future of television, Ivan Farneti, chief operating officer of Sweden-based Glory Sports International, a channel dedicated to kick-boxing, said his social media team pump out video highlights during advert breaks to keep viewers from turning over and losing ad revenue for the network.

"You need to make sure that when the TV commercials come on, your thumbs are busy on your phones so you don't change channel. If our viewers are busy tweeting [about what they just saw] they aren't changing the channel," Farneti said.

A key technique for Farneti's channel and production team is to record fights and upload short highlights to the internet immediately. Doing so creates reaction on social media and this brings more viewers to the channel just moments later. "Our social media team's job [on the monthly fight night] is to create live snippets that can become viral.

"Our first fight in Istanbul had a guy snap his shin in two [from kicking an opponent]. A 10 second clip [of this injury] was sent out immediately and we saw a spike in viewing numbers immediately after. [Another clip] of a 580-degree kick was on the web in two minutes and viewed one million times in less than an hour."

Get there first and new viewers tune in

David Gibbs, director of Sky Sports Digital Media, agreed that getting key moments onto social media translates into an instant surge in viewers to the TV channel. "For our 30-year-old business [social media] is changing the way people think," Gibbs said. "Something happens, you get it out there. If you don't, then someone else does it before you. You do see these spikes [in viewers]. Grab it, get it out there and you bring people in."

Gibbs went on to explain the complicated Sky Sports has with Periscope, the Twitter-owned smartphone app which lets users broadcast live video to their followers.

On the one hand, Periscope is being used to broadcast live sports events for which Sky pays a fortune for; but on the other, it has become a powerful tool for giving Sky viewers extra content from the broadcaster itself. "Things like Periscope and [rival video app] Vine, we use them where they add value to our offering. There is a big demand and it's about managing those relationships, the good and the less good sides."