Sometimes football fans just can’t decide, should they consume more streaming service content or rather go for a game of football or two. And if they are real football maniacs, what do they watch when there’s no game on-hand – although there always seems to be a game played somewhere in the world? The digital reception has made fans aware of content, which does focus football, but in a more cinematic or serial way. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video already offer numerous football documentaries. While they certainly bring players, background stories, special behind-the-scenes material and whole clubs to the attention of a very broad audience, they merge different demands to modern media. Football fans are provided with ever more streaming content for their spare time – as clubs and streaming services earn revenue and prestige aplenty.
The streaming service effect
Well, Juventus Turin have always been a top club in Italy, have boasted world-class players and are regular performers in the Champions League. Yet, the Netflix documentary First Team: Juventus was a hit on the streaming service, since it does offer something else than YouTube videos or the club’s Social Media channels like on Instagram. The series keeps fans watching, because they can see material from the reknowned players that seems to be so close to their everyday life as human beings rather than those football superstars. Furthermore, the production is more than professionally crafted, it’s beautifully shot at times and certainly the whole experience is about proper storytelling. And that’s something that football cannot always offer compared to popular series like Game of Thrones, Stranger Things or what have you.
Federico Palomba, Juve’s Co-Chief Officer at the time told JuveNews.eu:
The value we see is to be displayed on a platform by over 110 million subscribers worldwide, half of them in the United States, where their sum exceeds the total of all TV subscribers. We see an opportunity for priceless international exposure, priceless, and moreover with a very high quality product. One of the main objectives of this extraordinary opportunity is to grow internationally and reach new Juventus fans.
Reaching new fans is totally important and streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video are destined to do just that, worldwide. The latter service even offers viewers a series that refers to many sports experiences: All Or Nothing. And football fans will remember the popular edition fosusing Manchester City in their record breaking Premier League campaign of 2017/18. For the behind-the-scenes material will have made many people across several countries appreciative or even fanatic about the club – that has only grown to international prominence since heavy investments from sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and their recent successes. Their image maybe wasn’t always the best, but Guardiola and his playing style as well as that documentary will have helped. According to the BBC, Man City earned ten million pound for the exclusive camera access alone. And, as reported by City Watch, the series got ten million views and downloads in the first two weeks since its release. The rating on Amazon is nearly as satisfactory for City sympathisers as their last and current season. The high-profile series, narrated by no less than Ben Kingsley, who grew up in the suburbs of Manchester, was even nominated for some TV awards.
A focus on the fans themselves
So, this content can be a revenue and awareness driver for the services and the clubs. But when your club isn’t quite Juve or Man City, focusing on a different perspective might be a sensible stroke. That’s what England’s traditional club AFC Sunderland have done. Their very own Netflix series Sunderland ’Til I Die has been a thorough success – as opposed to their last few seasons in the English leagues. The club are just trying to get back to the Championship after a disastrous spell since their last relegation from the Premier League. And that is all part of the documentary. But, more importantly, as the title tells, it’s about the ties of the city and the club, the incredibly loyal and deeply rooted fandom in a city with many economical problems. They premiered the series at a special event and the success that followed spoke for itself.
On one hand, Sunderland can really do with the money that Netflix will have paid them for such exclusive access. On the other hand, the proud yet troubled club probably have been made more popular in various areas outside of Tyne and Wear. And guess what, there will be a second season this year, as the Guardian’s Russel Scott has already had a preview.
A similar approach is made by La Liga now. As Forbes report, their partnership with Relevent Sports Group has enabled them to reach North American audiences from the start of the 2019/20 season on with United States of LaLiga, a 12-part documentary focusing on fans of different Spanish clubs based in the US. Boris Gartner, CEO of LaLiga North America, is quoted:
Let’s find as many stories as we can of Americans that have some connection with LaLiga. Let’s build that bridge.
Rather than only for established football fans, this series is made to make people love football in the first place. Or understand the love for it. Because the sport is far from being the most popular in the US, yet, it is in the ascendant. La Liga and the Relevent Sports Group formed a first-of-a-kind equal joint venture last year, which is to last at least 15 years. It’s out to bring La Liga to the US and surely find a way to more audiences that promise engagement and revenue. Their series will focus on fans and also on stories like Mexicans, who play in Spain, like Andrés Guardado and Diego Lainez playing together at Real Betis, rathen than just going on about Griezmann, Messi or Real Madrid.
The plan to have La Liga matches played in the US was earlier repelled by the FIFA, though. Therefore, the documentary might even be of more significance in terms of getting the league and the love for football across the sea.
The growing number of football content on streaming services
The success of series like Sunderland ’Til I Die shows that not only Netflix or Amazon take profit from such content, but that the clubs or leagues can leverage this opportunities as well. The people do spend their time on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu etc. So, offering them a new perspective and insights there could be a great chance to win over millions of viewers and earn some money en passant. It would take some good stories, though – but doens’t football sometimes write the best of them?
You can already watch several football-related series, like Les Bleus or Boca Juniors: Confidencial on Netflix. Beside a story about Antoin Griezmann’s rise there will be documentary about compatriot Nicolas Anelka in 2020. Some clubs even started creating original content themselves. Manchester United for example have made Eric Bailly – l’Elephant d’Afrique a MUTV special, on demand for subscribers.
Football fans want to get entertained every day, not only on a matchday. They want background stories, storytelling and high-quality visual content; which, like football and its entertainment itself, just doesn’t end. Be it on a streaming platform or via the very own subscription service, documentaries are drawing ever more interest. While the market is made, not least thanks to Netflix and Co., satisfying these demands can prove lucrative for clubs around the world as they need to become more of a media brand, anyway.