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 a very powerful components 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 objective and almost-goal, each cool Steph Curry shot for the Warriors, each Daniel Jones run for the Giants, each Aaron Decide strikeout or residence 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 nice components are proper there on YouTube a couple of 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 change into the largest factor in sports activities TV as viewers began to care extra about sick dunks than closing scores. And certainly, the entire sports activities fan expertise has shifted! Younger viewers observe particular person gamers quite than groups; they care concerning 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 are actually embracing these platforms and angles greater than ever. Now, all people’s additionally speaking about playing and fantasy and the way these are altering the best way we speak about sports activities.
That is simply… the sport. Minus all of the boring components.
However prolonged highlights really feel like a distinct 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 music 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 because of this. Eighteen minutes of a 90-minute soccer recreation is sufficient to present the beginning lineups, the kickoff, each significant scoring alternative, each yellow and purple card, each nook kick, and each cool dribbling transfer that in the end ended nowhere. No, you don’t get to see the three minutes of buildup that led to the objective, which is what purists will inform you is the entire level of the sport. However you do get a way of the circulate, the momentum, the vibe of the sport. It’s a remarkably full retelling in a tiny fraction of the time.
Nearly each main sport and league affords these prolonged highlights, and I type of can’t imagine all of them do. Stay 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 without cost on YouTube? (To be clear, I adore it. Please don’t cease regardless that it looks like a horrible enterprise determination.) Embracing the web as a sports activities distribution device was the proper name — I’m undecided making supercuts of each recreation was.
Pitch clocks made baseball quicker. Prolonged highlights make baseball approach quicker.
I additionally suppose prolonged highlights may be a clue about the way forward for sports activities. The web-ification of sports activities has lengthy been taking place in delicate 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 yr, Main League Baseball made the bases bigger and outlawed some very efficient protection, which suggests steals and runs are each up. Extra highlights!
The web-ification of sports activities has lengthy been taking place in delicate 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 shaped partially by soccer famous person 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 quicker and extra chaotic. There’s no stunning recreation right here; there may be, as a substitute, the “golden card” that groups draw earlier than the sport that claims issues like “any objective scored within the subsequent minute counts double” or “on the spot penalty.” And the entire recreation is simply 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 similar time, which suggests the day’s spherical goes rather more rapidly. The objective, as with the Kings League, is to verify one thing thrilling is at all times taking place and to make all of it occur quicker.
It is sensible, proper? As viewers, so many issues are competing for our consideration that hardly anybody desires to observe 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 rather a lot to ask viewers to give attention to. Sports activities, similar to different kinds of leisure, haven’t any alternative however to make every thing transfer at a blistering tempo or threat shedding viewers to the TikTok app on their telephones. After all, when sports activities push tougher and get quicker, that creates room for brand spanking new and totally different sorts of content material surrounding the video games. Which suggests 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 power threatening the primacy of their reside video games — the NFL, particularly, made a behavior out of selecting copyright fights with anybody who a lot as tweeted a recreation spotlight. Others noticed YouTube as a helpful strategy to expose extra individuals to their greatest content material. “We’re extremely protecting of our reside recreation rights,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver mentioned again in 2016. “However for probably the most half, highlights are advertising and marketing.”
That’s in all probability nonetheless true, particularly within the context of “take a look at this cool objective.” That may flip non-fans into informal ones and make individuals 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 every thing. And it solely took 16 minutes.
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