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The sports documentary boom from Netflix and beyond

Streaming services aren’t just getting into live sports; they’re dabbling in sports documentaries, too. Netflix started the trend when its first sports docuseries about college football leagues, Last Chance U, debuted in 2016, and the field has only exploded since then.

Netflix has built up its lineup, producing popular shows like Formula 1: Drive to Survive and The Last Dance, a docuseries that follows Michael Jordan during his time playing for the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s. Other services have followed suit, with Amazon Prime Video’s All or Nothing and Apple TV Plus’ Messi Meets America.

And plenty more sports documentaries are in the works. Netflix is partnering with Major League Baseball for a docuseries about the Boston Red Sox, while Apple TV Plus is working on a series about Major League Soccer. Even Paramount Plus is debuting a series about IndyCar drivers.

Here’s all the latest on the sports documentaries coming to streaming.

  • Netflix teases us with 48 seconds of F1: Drive to Survive.

    Season six of Netflix’s Formula 1 docuseries (that all of the others are trying to copy) arrives on February 23rd, ready to recap last season’s action (and inevitable ending) that set up the offseason madness racing fans are currently dealing with.

    We’ll see if it has any hints about Lewis Hamilton’s upcoming Ferrari switch, Guenther Steiner’s exit from Haas, or whatever is being investigated about Christian Horner. In the meantime, has anyone watched the NASCAR attempt, Full Speed?

  • Netflix’s next sports docuseries follows the Boston Red Sox.

    The streamer is planning to debut a new docuseries in 2025 that features “unprecedented access to Red Sox players, coaches, and executives” during the 2024 season. Later this year, Netflix will also release a documentary about the Red Sox’s 2004 season, which led to the team’s historic World Series win.

  • Maximum Messi.

    Apple’s partnership with MLSand, in turn, Lionel Messi — continues with the announcement of a new docuseries about the league, helmed by some of the minds behind Netflix’s hit Formula 1: Drive to Survive. The show will be coming to Apple TV Plus, where there’s already a series on Messi himself, though no word yet on when it’ll start streaming. If nothing else, it’s a smart way to help boost those MLS Season Pass subscriptions.

    Leagues Cup 2023: Inter Miami CF v Orlando City CF
    Photo by Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images
  • Get the inside scoop on emo Jimmy Butler.

    The Athletic is reporting that Netflix is working on another sports docuseries like Quarterback, this one focused on a quintet of NBA stars. That includes LeBron James, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards, Domantas Sabonis, and Jimmy Butler — and I can only hope that we’ll learn more about Butler’s unforgettable media day. No word on when it might stream, but the show is reportedly being filmed now.

    Miami Heat Media Day
    Photo by Sam Navarro/Getty Images
  • NASCAR is ready for its Drive to Survive moment.

    While Netflix is starting to do live sports, this isn’t that (at least not yet, anyway). While the Drive to Survive series that boosted F1’s popularity in the US won’t be back until February, NASCAR and Netflix have released a trailer for Full Speed, a very similar behind-the-scenes docuseries following stock car drivers.

    It promises access to 16 drivers and teams through last year’s playoffs across five 45-minute episodes, including Ryan Blaney, known gamer Ross Chastain, known gamer moment haver Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, and others.

  • Andrew Webster

    Aug 14, 2023

    Andrew Webster

    Apple TV Plus is getting a new series about Lionel Messi in Miami

    Leagues Cup 2023 - Quarterfinals: Charlotte FC v Inter Miami CF
    Photo by Hector Vivas / Getty Images

    The love affair between Lionel Messi and Apple continues. Now that the star is playing in MLS for Miami, with games broadcast across Apple’s streaming service, the company is doing its best to maximize Messi’s appeal. The latest bit of brand synergy comes in the form of a docuseries that will air on Apple TV Plus and be specifically focused on Messi’s move from Paris to Miami. Apple describes the six-part series as “the first and only behind-the-scenes account of Messi’s new chapter.”

    If you’re counting, this is actually the second Messi series slated for Apple TV Plus; the first will track his exploits in Qatar leading Argentina to a World Cup victory. Neither series has a title or release date.

    Read Article >
  • Jay Peters

    Jun 14, 2023

    Jay Peters

    Netflix’s new NFL docuseries starring Patrick Mahomes debuts this summer

    Netflix is getting into football. On Wednesday, the streaming giant announced a new sports docuseries, Quarterback, that will focus on three NFL quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs (who just collected his second Super Bowl win and second Super Bowl MVP award); Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings; and Marcus Mariota of the Atlanta Falcons. The series is set to debut this summer.

    “For the first time ever, the NFL allowed quarterbacks to be mic’d up for every single game of a season,” Netflix wrote in a post about the series. “The upcoming show will feature behind-the-scenes access to some of the biggest moments of the season, as Mahomes set an NFL record for total offense on his way to winning the league and Super Bowl MVP awards; Cousins engineered the greatest comeback in NFL history and led the Minnesota Vikings to an NFC North Division title; and Mariota took over as the starting quarterback in his first season with the Atlanta Falcons.”

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  • Jan 23, 2021

    Joshua Rivera

    Tiger and the need to complicate the world we grew up in

    Image: HBO

    The year is kicking off with what’s becoming a loose tradition: a documentary about a renowned ‘90s athlete that aims to shade in a more complete picture. This time around, it’s Tiger, a two-part HBO Sports documentary about golf superstar Tiger Woods. Like The Last Dance, which chronicled Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls while reflecting on his entire career, Tiger attempts to complicate the prevailing narrative of a legend defined by his meteoric rise and equally steep fall. 

    Even if you didn’t know golf, you probably knew about Tiger Woods. If you came of age in the ‘90s or early aughts, it was impossible to not know about the man who brought raucous, Michael Jordan-levels of celebrity to golf — a sport so traditionally restrained that Adam Sandler was able to make a hit comedy where the only real joke was “what if a golfer got real pissed off all the time?” 

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  • Jordan Golson

    Mar 29, 2017

    Jordan Golson

    Formula One and Le Mans documentary series are coming to Amazon Prime Video

    Australian F1 Grand Prix
    Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Amazon has approved two motorsports TV shows for its Prime Video platform, one following the McLaren Formula One team across the 2017 season, and the other covering the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans race in June.

    Le Mans: Racing is Everything was greenlit last month by Amazon and will receive what Amazon calls “unprecedented access” to the entire 24-hour race later this year. Film crews embedded with the Porsche, Audi, Nissan, Toyota, Aston Martin, and Rebellion teams for the 2015 race, and followed a number of high-profile drivers including Mark Webber, André Lotterer, Nico Prost, and Englishman Jann Mardenborough, a 19-year-old who won a racing slot through the company’s GT Academy e-sports competition.

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