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Formula One is a massive sport globally. Nearly 90 million people tune into each race — the Super Bowl had 96 million viewers last year — and the sport generates over $2 billion in revenue during a typical, non-pandemic year.
The only problem? Despite the United States having the largest economy globally, Formula 1 has struggled to gain popularity stateside. A lack of familiarity and no US-born drivers certainly plays a role, but if Formula 1 wanted to multiply their market cap from $30 billion to $60 billion, they knew they needed to capture the imagination of American consumers.
That’s where Netflix comes in. The streaming behemoth signed a deal with Formula 1 in 2018 to produce “Formula One: Drive to Survive,” a documentary-style show that follows Formula One and its teams throughout the course of a season.
The concept was simple: provide fans a never-before-seen glimpse into the paddock and inner workings of the world championship series, revealing dramatic rivalries and friendships that traditional broadcasts fail to capture.
The result? Magic. The 10-episode series has recently been renewed for a fourth season, and the content has been lauded as a revolutionary, dramatic, and wildly successful ad campaign for Formula 1.
The average F1 TV audience in the United States has risen from 547,000 in 2018 to 928,000 in 2021, according to the New York Times.
Formula One made significant digital gains in 2020, with social media engagements soaring 99% year-over-year (YoY) to 810 million (source).
Formula One is the fastest-growing major sports property across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, Snapchat, Twitch, and Chinese social platforms, with total followers up 3% to 35 million (source).
Over 75% of Formula One’s audience growth in 2020 came from those aged between 16 and 35, a key demographic for broadcasting and advertising partners (source).
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that F1: Drive to Survive has been “very positive for F1, and the popularity seems enormous,” adding that his 14-year-old daughter “didn’t have much interest in F1 before the Netflix series” but now “knows who all the drivers are!”
But now, other professional sports leagues are looking to replicate that success.
The PGA Tour has reportedly struck a deal with Netflix to produce an all-new episodic documentary series on the upcoming season modeled after F1: Drive to Survive.
Similar to the current collaboration between F1 and Netflix, the PGA Tour is expected to film its cast members at tournaments, at home, and during all the in-between times, providing fans with the full behind-the-scenes experience they desperately crave.
The best part?
According to Dylan Dethier at Golf.com, the cast hasn’t been finalized yet, but several of the Tour’s “big name” players have already agreed to participate, including major champions and about half of the top 20 in the current World Ranking.
A lot of this is still to be determined. The PGA Tour & Netflix both declined to comment on the report, and neither has released any official communication on the topic. But if this is legit, and the PGA Tour allows access similar to F1, this will be a major opportunity for the sport of golf.
Despite having emerging rivalries and some of the top personalities in sports, the PGA Tour has historically kept its athletes buttoned up to the public. Social media has helped deteriorate that perception, but in a world where consumers want increased access, drama, and personality, Netflix has the opportunity to shatter it.
We’ll see how it goes. The concept of personal storytelling can be a superpower, and I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to create some great content together. Ultimately, that’s all fans really want.
I hope each of you has a great weekend. Monday is Labor Day, so we’ll talk again on Tuesday.
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