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The NFL Video Playbook: Personalized User Experiences Win

Photo by Dave Adamson / Unsplash

From match highlights to predictions, injuries to interviews, Super Fans to Swifties, there are NFL video clips for everyone – but fans need help finding them.

In 1981, MTV debuted with Video Killed the Radio Star, and since then, video has been an ever-growing part of the content landscape. Over the past few years, short-form video has captured the cultural zeitgeist. Today, people are 52% more likely to share videos than other forms of content, and are watching an average of 17 hours of online videos per week.

In the latest issue of Pulse Labs IQ™, Mobile UX for NFL News, we explore the experience of fans as they search for and watch video clips online. We had users record video of their user experience with mobile apps in addition to answering survey questions. We asked participants, “What apps, websites, or streaming services do you use to watch NFL video clips?”

Despite a multitude of options, YouTube emerges as the champion, capturing 61% of user preference. ESPN and the NFL follow at a significant distance, with 15% and 8% respectively. A demographic breakdown shows that YouTube is popular among millennials while Gen Z is experimenting with various platforms, including Instagram and TikTok.

Why YouTube is the real MVP

YouTube scores points by providing app personalization that caters to an array of preferences within NFL fandom. For the time-crunched enthusiasts, it offers succinct match recaps and highlights. Super Fans* can delve into more extensive analysis and interviews. Even Swifties can savor the latest titbits from the Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce saga. 

“YouTube provided such a plethora of video content and there was very good organization. I could spend a lot of time going through multiple videos that interest me about my preferred NFL team.” 

—William, Gen X, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Super Fan*

Coupled with its intuitive interface, YouTube's app personalization features can help fans find the content they desire. Users also like that the volume of content gives them multiple perspectives – not just official sources, but also independent creators. Additionally, the platform's comments section fosters a sense of community, allowing fans to engage with each other and forge stronger bonds among the fandom. 

“YouTube videos also have a fun dynamic!”

A fan explains why she enjoys the multiple perspectives and user-generated content of YouTube.

—Maleah, Gen Z, Dallas Cowboys, Casual Fan

“These are good suggestions in my algorithm!”

A super fan explains how he finds the YouTube recommendations interesting, and would rather watch highlights than commentary.

—Chris, Gen X, Atlanta Falcons, Super Fan*

What's missing: Users want even more personalization

While YouTube offers an expansive range of content, users are left wanting a more personalized user experience, rather than having to navigate a deluge of videos and hoping the algorithm learns their preferences. This poses a significant cognitive burden on users, which is why a few expressed a desire for more filtering options or prompt suggestions to help them.

“I think YouTube offers valuable information, however, it can be easily drowned out by heavy opinion videos and also irrelevant news. Thus, it can be used only for certain replays and not so much about gaining quick stats.”

—Nalin, Gen Z, Cleveland Browns, Casual Fan

Because NFL fan preferences encompass such a diverse spectrum, there is no one-size-fits-all search and recommendation formula. Several of our research participants expressed concerns about disparities between their initial expectations of their searches and the content that surfaced in the results. A few mentioned that they favor the desktop version over the mobile app, citing limitations of the mobile search features.

“It is too much for me!”

A Super Fan explains why he finds it difficult to find information tailored to his team and preferences on YouTube.

—Patrick, Millennial, Washington Commanders, Super Fan*

“I don't really know what I am going to be watching!”

A user explains why she is never sure what to expect from YouTube search results.

—Kaitlyn, Gen Z, Pittsburgh Steelers, Super Fan*

Rival ESPN scores less points on online video

In our story, The Quest for Daily Active Users, we reported that for written content, ESPN is the fan favorite. Since users are already there reading, many watch videos as well. Although our research indicates users appreciate ESPN's adeptness for app personalization and in-depth analyses for match post-mortems and comprehensive weekly roundups, some aspects leave users unenthused. 

“The videos are good but sometimes take a while to load and are glitchy. There are also too many ads that break up the videos.”

—Ian, Gen X, Chicago Bears, Super Fan*

Users pointed out the app's long load times, along with sentiments that the videos provided are too long. Users generally preferred 5-7 minute videos, which allows for some analysis while allowing fans to quickly move to the next topic.

“The information that I was looking for was sort of quick, easy gratification information. I wish just looking up "bears" would give me relevant, quick, and easy news. Instead, there were 10ish minute long videos.”

—Ainsley, Gen Z, Chicago Bears, Casual Fan


Video clips play a pivotal role in bridging the connection between NFL fans and their favorite teams and players. Beyond the NFL, high quality, timely content can help other fandoms connect with their base. For video platforms, the ability to provide  customized user experiences can set them apart. 

  • App personalization is key: it's crucial not to overload users with the responsibility of navigating and customizing their experience. Offering better filtering mechanisms and supplementary prompt suggestions can help streamline the exploration process.
  • Recognize that there are different fan personas, that each have diverse content preferences. Some lean towards opinion pieces, while others prefer highlights and unique perspectives. Providing a customized user experience through personalized feeds can cater to these varying tastes.
  • Platforms that enable interaction among fans, such as through comments sections, foster a sense of community. This encourages engagement and strengthens bonds among the NFL fandom and holds true for other highly-engaged user groups. Community-building features like these can deepen stickiness of a particular platform.

Stay tuned for more insights from Pulse Labs IQ™ as we continue to explore real-world insights into the Mobile UX for NFL News. Our user experience research on AI, websites, and mobile apps continues to grow! Want to know more about our approach or have suggestions for future research topics? Contact us.

*Super Fan refers to fans who watch 15 or more games a season, consume NFL content from 5 or more different apps, and follow more than one team.



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