Netflix boast just under 200 million subscribers worldwide and have released several sports documentaries over the last few years. However, we are yet to see an Australian football Netflix series – an opportunity that should be taken advantage of.
There is a market for these types of documentaries as Netflix is not the only streaming service that features sport docuseries. Amazon Prime has produced also produced documentaries on Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
One of the most popular football docuseries has been Netflix’s Sunderland ‘Til I Die. The show which provided a behind the scenes view of the club was one of the most watched programs on Netflix in the UK during the week of the release of the second season.
Sunderland has received global recognition off the back of the popularity of the show.
Stewart Donald, owner and former chairman of Sunderland told ChronicleLive that there are lots of reasons why the documentary is good for the club.
“My initial thought with it was, there aren’t many football clubs that can have a global brand, but if you’ve got a Netflix documentary and it goes right, you can get that out to the world and maybe you might get a few people who come along and get emotionally involved in Sunderland who otherwise wouldn’t have,” he said.
“If our name goes out to 20 or 30 million people on Netflix, or however many it might be, that can only be good for the club.”
There are several possibilities for an Australian football docuseries. The show could follow a single A-League club’s season, in the same vein to the Sunderland or Manchester City programs.
Other documentaries have focused on a season of a series or championship as a whole. Netflix’s Formula 1 docuseries Drive to Survive involves several different teams and features a different storyline each episode.
One million households streamed Drive to Survive within the first 28 days of season two’s release according to research agency Digital-i.
An A-League version of this could cover the biggest storylines and moments of the season.
Documentaries have also focused on the national team of a sporing organisation such as Amazon Prime’s The Test which documents the Australian cricket team’s redemption following the ball tampering scandal in 2018.
A series that follows the qualification process of an Australian team for a FIFA World Cup would be a particularly interesting documentary series given the high stakes involved.
The exposure gained from an Australian football Netflix series could be a great opportunity to either introduce people to Australian football or reinvigorate their love for the game.
Drive to Survive has seen an increase an interest for the sport in the US, which is not a traditional market for Formula 1.
Earlier this year Renault Formula 1 Driver Daniel Ricciardo appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah where he discussed the impact that Drive to Survive has had in the US.
“I definitely feel F1 is becoming much more of a thing here in the States. Drive to Survive put it on the map,” he said.
“I spend a bit of time in the States, and up until a year ago, not really anyone would say ‘Hi’ to me – not in a bad way, but they wouldn’t recognise me for being an F1 driver.
“And now it’s all: ‘We saw you on Netflix, it was great, Drive to Survive.’ We wear helmets, so not many people can see our faces a lot of the time.
Given the younger demographic of streaming service users, a docuseries could create a new generation of fans for football in Australia. Depending on the success of the series, it could even inspire more young Australians to play the world game.
At an event for 188Bet in March 2020, F1’s Managing Director of Motorsport Ross Brawn, said that the Netflix series had seen positive impacts for the sport.
“What we’ve discovered is it’s been very appealing to the non race fan: in fact it turned them into race fans,” Brawn said.
“Some of the promoters in the past season have said they’ve definitely measured the increase in interest in F1 that has come from the Netflix series.
“And while Netflix in itself wasn’t for us a hugely profitable venture, in terms of giving greater coverage for F1, it’s been fantastic.
While Football Federation Australia, the A-League and its clubs would not be able to demand the millions of dollars that other clubs and organisations are paid for their participation in a documentary, it could provide a cash boost for the organisations.
Ryan Reynolds has partnered with fellow actor Rob McElhenney to purchase Welsh soccer club Wrexham AFC, who compete in the fifth tier of English football, the National League.
Part of Reynolds and McElhenney’s takeover bid involves plans for a documentary series that follows the events of the team.
Bloomberg spoke to Ampere Analysis analyst Richard Broughton, who said that it would not be unreasonable for a streaming service to pay several hundred thousand pounds per hour for the broadcast rights to a show.
An Australian football Netflix series would be extremely beneficial for the sport in this country.