2016 IBJJF Pan Am Championships

How FloSports used Facebook to grow paid subscribers by 22 percent

Note: This article was originally published on Digiday.com June 7, 2016. 

By putting more videos and ads on Facebook, sports site FloSports said it increased paid subscriptions by 22 percent in the span of three months.

FloSports is a subscription-based streaming network of 12 sites focused on niche sports like track and field, volleyball and even Brazilian jiu-jitsu. FloSports has a mixed revenue model. About 60 to 70 percent of its library, which includes breaking news, short highlights and studio shows like “Run Junkie,” is available for free. Live competitions and documentaries are behind the paywall, which is priced at $20 per month or $150 per year. It boasts over 100,000 paying subscribers.

FloSports publishes nearly 400 videos per month on Facebook. FloSports also puts up trailers for its original documentaries as well as hype videos for upcoming live events, all with links to a sign-up page. The strategy has helped FloSports grow to 20 million views per month on Facebook. It’s also helping drive people to its websites — where they can then subscribe. Facebook accounted for nearly 17 percent of referral traffic in the first quarter, up 21 percent from the same time period the previous year.

“The conventional wisdom is that if people get the content they want on Facebook, maybe they’ll be less inclined to come to a site,” said Nick Schenck, svp of customer acquisition and marketing for FloSports. “The opposite has happened with us, we are reaching more people who are interested in our sports and are coming to the site directly from Facebook.”

FloSports has increased ad spending for the platform by 600 percent since January and now has an in-house content marketer assigned to each of its verticals. These staffers are experts in their respective sports and look to boost top-performing Facebook videos.

FloSports has built lookalike audiences based on their existing subscribers and website visitors and targets them, as well as Facebook users who have engaged with a video in any form. For instance, three or four weeks before a live event, FloSports will put up a hype video on Facebook. In the week leading up to that event, the company will then target those users with ads and videos that direct them to the site.

“Netflix, Hulu and Amazon do quite a bit of advertising on YouTube, because the platform does an amazing job of helping you get people behind a paywall,” said Rich Raddon, co-CEO of Zefr, which has worked with those companies to find potential new customers on YouTube. This is because YouTube users are continually “giving out signals,. So long as you can go and target them with relevant content, it’s a lot less friction to get them behind a paywall.”

It appears Facebook, at least in the case of FloSports, is proving out a similar value.