Netflix and Sport…the future?

Welcome to today’s blog! I wanted to talk about something that has been particularly relevant in recent months, in particular in combination with Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance. 

In my opinion Netflix’s position as an on demand streaming platform has evolved significantly in the past few years. Initially Netflix was the one stop shop for every tv show and movie we wanted, especially as a more legal alternative to streaming content online. Everything changed once Netflix started developing their own ‘Netflix Originals’ brand. Exclusive to Netflix, the high quality of these shows has been able to differentiate the platform from it’s competitors and the success of these shows has transcended society, in particular through several sports documentaries. 

There are 3 sport documentaries that have been particularly impactful, The Last Dance, Formula 1’s Drive to Survive and Sunderland Till I Die. All 3 shows provide the viewer with an exclusive and deep insight into the behind the scenes of each sport. So what impact are these shows having on how people view sport? 

In a time where people are desperate for sport, The Last Dance – a recollection of the career of Michael Jordan, has created a new appreciation not only for Michael Jordan but Basketball itself. It will be incredibly interesting to see how The Last Dance will impact NBA viewing numbers, the growth of Chicago Bulls fan base and the appreciation of the career of Michael Jordan. The impact of the show online, a clear reflection of its popularity globally, had The Last Dance as one of the most talked about topics on social platforms for weeks on end. 

In a similar fashion, Formula 1 Drive to Survive has had a huge impact on Formula 1, just as Sunderland Till I Die has grown the Sunderland brand globally. The only difference, there has been more time for us to tangibly observe the ways in which the show has grown these sport’s audiences and fan engagement. More specifically, the F1 have cited the success of the Netflix series as being key in its growth among young fans, reporting earlier this year that 62 percent of new fans were under the age of 35. From Sunderland’s perspective, they were able to turn the devastation of back to back relegations into a television series that demonstrates the true nature of Sunderland as a club and an insight into the workings of a soccer club in the UK. It’s transparency to fans created improved rapport while also building a new fan base from the show itself. 

The obvious success of these sport documentaries has made me think about the potential role Netflix might play in the future of televising and broadcasting sport. Inevitably we will continue to see Netflix, and probably other streaming services, produce these high quality behind the scenes sport documentaries. We have already seen clubs begin to produce their own versions of these documentaries, even in the AFL. There is almost an argument in which these thrilling, dramatic and cinematic documentaries are more engaging and interactive than live sport itself. 

How often does a single sport steal the eyes of the entire globe like The Last Dance did? My answer – not very often. 

So is there a limit to Netflix’s role in sport? Could Netflix ever have a role in live broadcasting of sport? There is clearly a strong sport-interested audience who watch Netflix…so why not? 

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