The rise of AFTV -- that's Arsenal Fan TV -- through a pandemic
A look into soccer fan Robbie Lyle's growing media empire, and the agility to stay open-minded amid a pandemic.
Jide AkinrinadeVideo producer
Jide is CNET's video producer for the UK team, based in London. When the reality of actually making it as an actor dawned on him, Jide figured a life behind the camera would be a more obtainable goal. A techie at heart, he is now able to combine his two passions. If he's not at the gym, you can find him chilling with Netflix.
YouTube has been the birthing ground for a lot of new content spaces. One of those spaces gaining popularity is the fan channel sector. Fanbases from all types of sports have sprung up doing their best to offer unfiltered opinions of their beloved teams. In regard to soccer (that's "football" to the rest of the world) there's no other channel in the space that's more popular than AFTV (Arsenal Fan TV). It's owner, Robbie Lyle, created the channel back in the fall of 2012. Since then, it's gathered momentum and claimed more than a million subscribers.
In the early days, Lyle had to borrow a tape camera and a microphone to do his videos. Today, he has multiple studio spaces, pro cameras, studio-quality mics and a whole lot more. Very impressive when you consider that he's never borrowed money to upgrade his equipment and he's reinvested the revenue the channel made.
His model of interviewing fans after football matches was threatened during the pandemic, as fans weren't allowed to go to matches, leaving a sizable gap in his programming. He soon pivoted the channel to doing watch-alongs, where he'd run live commentary on games with other fans socially distanced in an office space. The popularity of the watch-along doubled his monthly views and became a mainstay of the channel. Lyle is pretty certain he never would've thought of the watch-along if the pandemic hadn't happened. The pivot showed his ability to think on his feet and ensure the further success of his channel.
Next to AFTV is the Don Robbie channel, which opens up to fans of any Premier League team. Lyle used the AFTV watch-alongs format to do shows with fans from all over the league, in what's become a very popular supplement to watching the live games. When it first started, the watch-along was almost designed to capture the feeling of watching a game with your friends. But now it's evolved into an entertaining spectacle in its own right.
To find out more about the media empire Lyle is creating, check out the video below.