With over 40 million views on YouTube, the Airgun Show has become one of the hottest properties on the platform. Steve Faragher went along to chat with the show’s star Mat Manning and find out more
The Airgun Show has been a long road for regular GTN contributor and airgunning kingpin Mat Manning, and a satisfying one too. As the importance of video, and especially YouTube, became clearer he, along with the team at Future Publishing, decided to launch a new show, a sister show to The Shooting Show but aimed squarely at the burgeoning airgun community. And, as he frankly admits, no one was really sure what the reception was going to be.
“The popularity of the show has been something of a surprise.” Mat confesses. “But we did have an extremely helpful leg-up as Peter Carr had already done a brilliant job establishing the Shooting Show channel as a recognised and trusted brand when we launched.
“Nonetheless, the response and growth has been amazing and it still shocks me to have so many people coming up to me at game fairs and shooting shows. I also get swamped with questions on Facebook, and I do my best to answer them all!”
Mat had little idea what he was letting himself in for, and is quick to credit the man behind the camera for guiding him: “Cameraman Nicky Brown is a real star and I’d struggle to do it without him.
“He has been on board since we filmed the very first hunting package. I had absolutely no video experience at the time and Nicky did a great job directing me and explaining how to behave in front of the camera.
“I always have a very clear idea of how I want the finished product to look and how I want to tell the story of every outing. Nicky does a remarkable job of interpreting that and turning it into a ten-minute video.
“His advice and guidance have been invaluable and I try to pass on what I have picked up from him to the rest of the hunting team. Nicky is also extremely patient, which is handy when we’re spending long, unproductive hours waiting for rats or rabbits to venture out on cold, wet nights.”
So what does Mat think makes the show work so well? “It’s fun,” he maintains: “My aim for the Airgun Show is to portray airgun hunting in the most positive light possible. It is a wonderful sport that has given me a lifetime of enjoyment and satisfaction.
“I get a buzz from the whole experience, from being out in the countryside surrounded by wildlife through to the conservation benefits, helping farmers to protect their livelihoods and often going home with free-range meat for the table. I feel privileged to be able to do it and being able to make videos about it is the icing on the cake.”
Keeping that carefree enjoyment at the forefront of the show is not always as easy as it looks, as Mat explains: “Working with the challenges presented by wary quarry and unpredictable weather can be a real struggle. When most people go out shooting with their airgun they hope to shoot something, but when they watch The Airgun Show they expect to see something being shot.
“That puts myself and the rest of the team under a huge amount of pressure in terms of choosing locations, working around the weather and the clock, and finally trying to deliver the goods when chances arise.
“When it’s edited down to ten minutes, the hunting package looks like a fun jaunt in the woods or on the farm but it might actually be the sum of eight or more hours of us struggling to get close to our quarry and capture it on video at the same time. Seeing the result of our efforts makes all the hard work extremely rewarding.”
So we can see the effort that goes into it, but what does Mat think the audience responds to? “I think what makes The Airgun Show special is that we aim to inspire and educate—we want to help people to be effective, responsible shooters and great ambassadors for our wonderful sport.
“It’s a sad fact that anyone can get big numbers of views by making videos showing lots of animals being shot or shooters trying to be funny but they’re not really helping anyone—least of all the long-term future of the sport and the industry it supports.
“What we do is explain to the viewer what pests we are controlling, why we are controlling them and what gear and methods we are going to use in order to do it effectively and humanely.
“Looking at the comments we get, we seem to be doing something right because the vast majority of them tend to be asking questions about the equipment or the tactics we use on our hunting trips.”
It’s grown into a team experience too, as increasing schedules have meant involving more, carefully-picked presenters. “Everyone in the team makes a vital contribution.
“Richard Saunders and Andy Watkins work miracles to deliver their hunting packages and bring added variety to the show, and Kev Hawker’s reliability and flexibility with filming the reviews is invaluable when it comes to meeting our tight deadlines.”
Of course the show is commercial—it has to be, as nobody could invest the sort of time and money needed to produce videos of such high quality without revenue rolling in.
The Airgun Show
The Airgun Show is a fortnightly YouTube show presented by Mat Manning. Launched in 2014, a new episode goes live every other Thursday evening via The Shooting Show Channel.
The show comprises a ten-minute hunting package followed by a secondary package, which is usually a product review. With more than 220,000 subscribers, TAS alone has had more than 41 million views over its 170 episodes.
Unsophisticated view counts don’t always tell the full story though, but digging a little deeper into the statistics we can tell that viewers are 91% male with 35% of them in the 26-35 age bracket and 42% aged 46-65. The audience is 31% from the UK, 17% US and 15% European, and 90% of the traffic comes from people looking for it, whether actively searching or following recommended links.
Want to know more?
If you want your product featured on the airgun show, or want to increase your brand’s exposure to our audience, or even if you simply want to licence some footage from our extensive back catalogue, get in touch with Chetna Shukla on 0330 390 6515 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“But Mat is pretty clear that the commercial interests will never override editorial integrity: “We are very lucky to have attracted a great bunch of show sponsors over the years,” he explains, “But I would never hunt live quarry with kit that isn’t up to the job, so I am pretty fussy about who we have on board. Giving sponsors what they want is a top priority and we work hard to balance that with our vision and what the audience wants to see.”
Again there’s more work going on here than may be apparent when you’re just enjoying the show. “I work closely with our sponsors in order to establish how we can do the best job with their products,” explains Mat, “Most of them are initially attracted by the show’s numbers—episodes tend to get 20,000 views very quickly and keep going from there, often reaching hundreds of thousands and sometimes reaching the millions.
“But there is more to it than numbers as far as I’m concerned, which is why I attach so much importance to creating content that attracts the right kind of shooters—the ones who take their sport seriously.”
So how does it work with a sponsor then? “There is a misconception that Airgun Show sponsors are guaranteed glowing reviews whatever they send us,” suggests Mat, “But it’s not quite as simple as that. If a product isn’t up to scratch, social media quickly ensures that everyone knows about it, so I’m not going to risk my reputation by being dishonest.
“I work with our sponsors to make sure they send us products that are worthy of an ‘Airgun Show review’—kit that I would be happy to use myself. If it makes the grade, then we are happy to give it our endorsement and let people know about it.”
Modest Mat’s good-natured professionalism in front of the camera is still a little against the grain: “I still regard myself as a print journalist,” Mat admits “Incidentally, I still consider print media as a highly effective, and an often underrated way to reach and influence an audience—let’s face it, if people are paying for a magazine then they are very likely to digest everything that’s in it.
“However, there is no denying that video now reaches a much larger audience, so The Airgun Show seemed like a natural progression for me. I felt like a fish out of water the first few times I had to work in front a video camera but it comes a bit more naturally now.”
Meet the presenters
Writer and presenter
Mat is a full time journalist. His background is in news but he has worked in the shooting industry for almost 20 years —he is Group Editor of Airgun Brands at Future and a regular contributor to titles including Airgun Shooter magazine, Gun Trade News, Shooting Times and BASC members’ magazine Shooting and Conservation.
An airgun obsessive for more than 30 years, Mat specialises in live quarry shooting for pest control and for the pot. Mat has a passion for wildlife and conservation and rates fieldcraft as the most valuable asset in an airgunner’s arsenal.
Cameraman and video editor
Nicky is a specialist outdoor director, cameraman and video editor, and has been with The Airgun Show since day one—usually hauling heavy video and audio gear around muddy fields as he follows Mat on his adventures.
Nicky has a wide skill set and his work includes advanced drone videography, high altitude and extreme environment expedition filming as well as general corporate and broadcast work.
He has also produced an acclaimed series of fishing videos on Wilderness TV. His covert camerawork, incorporating all manner of clever concealment techniques, enables him to capture close-up hunting action without blowing Mat’s cover.
Richard has been an avid airgun hunter for 40 years. An experienced journalist, he is a regular contributor to Airgun Shooter magazine, where you can read his hunting features and product reviews.
After starting out in print media for fieldsports titles, Richard has embraced video over the past two years, during which he has established himself as a key member of the Airgun Show hunting team.
Although Richard is an advocate of traditional techniques he is not afraid to embrace new technology and can often be seen putting hi-tech gear through its paces.
A familiar face on the airgun scene, Andy has worked in print and online media for several years. Apart from being a skilled hunter, he is also an experienced target shooter and has competed in the Field Target NEFTA Classic, European Championships, Grand Prix Series, MFTA Summer and Winter Series, and was placed 9th in the 2017 HFT World Championships.
The youngest member of The Airgun Show team, Andy has quickly gained extensive filming, presenting and editing experience. He has established himself as a scope-cam filming expert, often advising on new and better ways to capture the action.
The man who first introduced Mat to airguns, Kev has been involved with the sport for more than four decades. A hunting specialist who can turn his hand to videography and photography, he has worked in fieldsports media for 17 years.
Kev has been on board since the launch of the show and has helped to film almost all of the 170 review packages to date. From freezing cold winter days to the blazing heat of summer, Kev is on hand to make sure that location review shoots go without a hitch, helping Mat to showcase sponsors’ products in the best possible light.