The final stages of the UEFA Champions League are in train with both English clubs despatched by Real Madrid and Bayern Munich who will meet tomorrow in the first leg of the semi final.

Traditional TV coverage will reach at least 96 countries, by 110 commercial broadcasters, with impressive, estimated audiences across Connected TV, Social, Web and Apps.

Advertisers will be relieved that both Arsenal and Man City are out of the competition – because all-English Champions League finals deliver the lowest average audiences.

Whereas, when Real Madrid reach the ultimate stages of the tournament – the average audience hits, what Mediacells calls, the Bonanza metric – to coin a Gen Z phrase; when the audience is ‘doing bits’.

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When Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the 2022 UEFA Champions League final – the average audience was 166 million – but figuring out how to quantify, engage, retain the masses of Gen Z and Alpha fans embedded in that number is an ongoing challenge for clubs and brands.

In a totally connected age it is somehow quaint to see TV guides for where to watch the big match, in a sense football faces the same challenges as Hollywood.

Both industries are focused on selling long-form video formats of movies and games but the  media-buying unicorn hunt for those elusive baby blue eyeballs, Gen Z and Alpha generations, shows few quantifiable signs of zeroing in on the audience prey.

The brilliant Advertising Research Foundation [ARF] emphasise the shift in viewer attention from trad TV habits to social and connected TV behaviours, especially, though not exclusively, among younger audiences.

Mediacells calls it the CLEAR challenge: Capture, Learn, Engage, Activate and Retain new audiences, because they are big spenders, like £1.5 billion + a year on FAST channels.

The boomer-generated tropes about Gen Z’s miniscule attention span has largely been discredited but short-form content, like social video, is definitely way into turning 18 – 24-year-olds’ attentions to longer-form content, like movies and live match action.

Mediacells has identified three, key winning platforms for entertainment and sport and, spoiler alert, NONE of them are studios or traditional broadcasters.

The metric we use to define success for our clients is Audience Delight, a bold and ambitious KPI which acknowledges a raw, feral commercial media landscape, where engagement talks and bullshit walks.

Netflix is the undisputed heavyweight streaming champion of the world but YouTube is the sleeping giant because the recommendation engine that powers viewer content is fuelled by knowledge of our clustered online behaviours to keep audiences engaged, purely to sell programmatic advertising slots.

There is a step change for how media owners and rights holders need to look at acquiring and retaining new audiences.

It is less about what the audience liked previously but what they will like in the future.

TikTok is challenging Netflix and YouTube as the king of hyper-personalised, easily digestible nano-content by providing social media hooks to entice users to engage in deeper, longer form content interactions. 

Generation X audiences get most of their What to Watch recommendations from traditional media sources like Saturday newspaper TV reviews while younger entertainment and sports fans look to Snap, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram for where to get their entertainment flicks and kicks.

This is why Hollywood studios are increasingly focusing on short-form social media content to boost box office sales, according to ARF.

It will be interesting to monitor how the next phases of the Champions League involve shorter-form content to entice younger fans and football already has a headstart on Hollywood –  the players.

Women’s and Men’s football players have a kind of godhead status on social media, in a way jobbing actors do not.

It is no coincidence that the two most-followed Instagram accounts are Cristiano Ronaldo (628 million) and Lionel Messi (502 million).

Performance on the pitch is crucial but ensuring advertisers and sponsors engage the largest, quantifiable, addressable audience is the desired pre-match build-up that needs more care and attention from the traditional media cabals.