In 2019, Netflix released a docuseries produced by Box-to-Box Films titled, “Formula 1: Drive to Survive”. This now four-season series pulls back the curtain on one of the world’s greatest racing competitions and “is credited with driving a 99% year-over-year increase in social media engagements in 2020 for Formula 1 across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube” (Poindexter, Front Office Sports). Just a year prior, the streaming platform released its first episode of the wildly popular series titled, “Explained” produced by Vox Media. “Explained” takes a deep dive into topics that impact all walks of life and explores questions that don’t appear on the average news broadcast.
Now in 2022, Netflix, Box-to-Box Films, and Vox Media will join forces to create a new series following the Drive to Survive model, about the PGA Tour. The series will give an unprecedented backstage look into the lives of some of the best golfers on tour.
After “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” caused a direct impact on F1 viewership in the United States, the PGA version is expected to bring a younger generation of viewers to golf. In fact, Drive to Survive is said to have been “the single most important impact for Formula 1 in North America” (Zak Brown, CEO of Mclaren Racing) with the United States viewership increasing by nearly half a billion since the show’s inception.
While golf is often regarded as a boring or a buttoned-up sport, many potential viewers do not often get to see beyond the quiet demeanors shown on the course. Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, and Cameron Champ are all in contention to be the featured athletes on season one. These charismatic personalities are the perfect way for this series to follow in the footsteps of Drive to Survive and impact the PGA’s engagement and viewership.
Providing behind-the-scenes access and educating viewers on sports outside of the core four (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA), has created mainstream content surrounding niche sports. Having platforms like Netflix to distribute this content to a wide variety of audiences is vital in creating new fan bases for the featured sport. ABC also followed a similar path when creating the reality competition show called the “Ultimate Surfer” which has already made an impact on the surf community in its first season.
As this mainstream content helps build diverse audiences for niche sports, it is also extremely valuable for the athletes and their careers inside and outside of their respective sport. When brands evaluate an athlete to partner with, they not only look for synergies but bandwidth and relatability across multiple demographics. Having streaming services and/or established networks produce these series, not only enhances the marketability of the featured but also of the other athletes who compete within the sport.
With newfound attention comes the opportunity for golf as a whole and those competing on tour to explore unchartered waters. When engagement and recognition increase with the release of this series, capitalizing on the spotlight will open more doors into the sponsorship world for less prominent figures in golf. Likewise, when attention is brought to any niche sport, athletes and their teams must be able to recognize potential and work to create opportunity from mainstream media exposure.
Just as Formula 1 drivers have capitalized on the buzz created by Netflix, golfers should be preparing to do the same. Behind-the-scenes content like such creates shared audiences and turns general sports fans into lifelong supporters. Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Cameron Champ and more, are all being set up for an audience boost whether or not they appear in the series. The capabilities of Netflix expand far beyond entertainment – their docuseries, informative content, and relatable stories create interest and dedicated fans.
A new driver is about to take the front seat in sports, and it is soon to be golf.