YouTube is home to over 800 million videos. Some of them are just a few seconds long, while others are relaxation-style videos that run for 10 hours or more, but what’s the optimum video length?
Various studies have looked into this with no clear conclusion, but a ballpark area that comes up a lot in discussion is the three-minute to three-and-a-half-minute mark. This seems to be roughly followed by the Sky Sports and BT Sports YouTube channels, whose Premier League highlights videos are distilled into somewhere between three and four minutes for even the most action-packed of games.
This duration makes a lot of sense, as fans can quickly watch them when they have a spare few minutes, perhaps on their phone while they’re waiting for their bus home or for their friend to come back from the bar. It’s also a length that lends itself well to binge watching, and since a Saturday afternoon will usually feature five or six Premier League matches, a fan could take in all of them in around 20 minutes.
Lower down the leagues, where clubs are left to their own devices, there’s much more variation in lengths and filming styles of highlights. On Monday, I went onto YouTube to view highlights of my team Chester FC’s game at Darlington at the weekend. We won’t talk about the result, but I was surprised to see the highlights video clocked in at over 18 minutes!
You can’t really blame Darlington FC for this though. Clubs have to film the entire match anyway just so they can capture the key moments from it, and to be fair they’ve done well to capture the goals from various angles. Wisely though, they seem aware that 18 minutes is a lot of pre-recorded non-league football footage to sit through, and have also published a video showing just the goals, lasting under two minutes.
I’m quite surprised that at the time of writing, it’s the longer video that has slightly more views.
This is just football though, and there are all sorts of different genres of videos that might be better suited to a different length of video. For example, a 2018 study found that the average gaming video was nearly four times as long as the average music video, at 24.7 minutes and 6.8 minutes, respectively. So, there isn’t really a clear answer to this question, and perhaps the best thing to do is take the Darlington approach and offer a mix of long and short videos.
One question you could ask yourself, however, is whether you have even been put off watching a YouTube video because of its length. If you have, it’s probably because it was too long rather than too short, so bear in mind that less is often more. That’s why I decided to make a video a few years ago where you only have to put up with my awkward screen presence for 60 seconds!
If you need help with video production, speak to the Engage Web team, and check out our Dawn of the Web video for a much slicker example of our work.