Netflix Upping Sports Documentary Productions

Netflix may not be interested in pursuing live-sports streaming, but the SVOD behemoth isn’t turning its back on sports.

The streamer Jan. 12 announced two new projects featuring exclusive, behind-the-scenes stories with some of the most-popular athletes, teams, leagues and federations around the globe. As part of its sports slate, Netflix has greenlighted two new docuseries: an as yet untitled series at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, featuring exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage of all 32 teams from the tournament; and “Six Nations,” an inside look at the international rugby tournament. 

Netflix also announced a Feb. 24 premiere for season five of popular series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” along with a first look at the new season. As previously announced, tennis series “Break Point” debuts Jan. 13, followed by golf series “Full Swing” on Feb. 15.  And later in 2023, Netflix will premiere a behind-the-scenes docuseries from the 2022 Tour de France, as well as “Heart of Invictus,” following competitors in The Invictus  Games. 

“By going behind-the-scenes of the world’s biggest sporting events with unprecedented access, we have a unique opportunity to share the triumphs, tribulations and drama of these iconic moments with our hundreds of millions of global members,” Brandon Riegg, VP of unscripted and documentary series, said in a statement.

Since breaking its sports doc teeth with “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” Netflix has doubled down chronicling some of the world’s biggest sporting leagues. 

“Break Point” gets up close and personal with top tennis players through an entire year traveling across the globe for all four Grand Slams and the ATP and WTA tours. From physical injuries and emotional heartbreak, to triumphant victories, to personal moments off the court, viewers will get a behind the scenes look at the pressure-tested lives of these pro tennis players.

“Full Swing” is an eight-episode documentary series that follows a diverse group of professional golfers on and off the course, across a relentless season of competition. The golfers endure a high-stakes schedule week in and week out on the PGA Tour, including, for the first time ever, exclusive behind-the-scenes access to all four of golf’s major championships. Full Swing is executive produced by Chad Mumm and Mark Olsen (Vox Media Studios), Paul Martin, James Gay-Rees and Warren Smith (Box to Box Films).

“Formula 1: Drive to Survive Season 5″ will once again take fans behind the scenes, to witness first-hand how the drivers and teams prepare to battle it out for the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The series will offer never-before-seen footage and interviews from the sport’s biggest names. Formula 1: Drive to Survive is executive-produced by Academy-Award winner James Gay-Rees (Amy, Senna) and Paul Martin (Diego Maradona) for Box to Box Films.

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“Heart of Invictus” follows a group of extraordinary competitors from around the globe — all service members who have suffered life-changing injuries or illnesses — on their road to the Invictus Games, revealing powerful stories of resilience and hope. From Archewell Productions in partnership with The Invictus Games Foundation, along with the Oscar-winning team of director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara (The White Helmets, Virunga, Evelyn). 

The untitled Tour de France docuseries showcases the iconic French bike racing stage race, a source of national pride in France. It will chart the ups and downs of eight of the teams, featuring their cyclists over the grueling three-week tour. The series is produced by QuadBox, a Paris-based joint venture between Box to Box Films and Quad. Executive producers are James Gay Rees, Paul Martin, Yann Le Bourbouach and Amelia Hann. 

“Six Nations” aims to get fans closer to the Guinness Six Nations Championship. The series will take viewers inside the exhilarating world of the oldest and greatest annual international rugby tournament, giving fans an insight into pulsating behind the scenes moments, as the best teams in Europe battle it out in some of the biggest matches in the rugby calendar to take home the prestigious trophy. 

The untitled FIFA World Cup Series (Summer 2023) follows players throughout qualification for last year’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Produced by Fulwell 73, the series will be the definitive account of one of the greatest sporting spectacles of all time. With privileged, behind-the-scenes access and exclusive footage in and around all the 32 teams, the series will show viewers the FIFA World Cup as never seen before. The series will stream globally on Netflix in 2023.

Other Netflix sports programming includes “The Redeem Team”; “Last Chance U”; “The Last Dance”; “Neymar: The Perfect Chaos”; “Untold”; and “Cheer.” In addition to exclusive projects with sports leagues, Netflix in 2023 will also launch the film Bill Russell: Legend; an untitled David Beckham series; and a new season of docuseries “Untold.”

Apple TV+ Scores Docuseries on Magic Johnson

Apple TV+ has picked up a documentary  series that will chronicle the life and career of two-time NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

A New Slate Ventures and XTR Production, the four-part docuseries will explore the accomplishments and global impact of Johnson’s life, both on and off the court. From his humble beginnings in Lansing, Mich., to becoming a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, he changed the conversation around HIV and transcended into a community activist and successful entrepreneur. Featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews with Magic, powerhouses from business and politics, and those in his inner circle, the series will offer an unprecedented look at one of sport’s all-time greats.

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa (“Dope”) with editor Dirk Westervelt (“Ford v. Ferrari”) and cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Black Panther), the docuseries is produced for Apple by XTR and New Slate Ventures, and produced in association with H.Wood Media and Delirio Films.

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Premiere Digital Mounting First Title Release With Doc ‘The Wall — Climb for Gold’

Premiere Digital is getting into content distribution.

In collaboration with Windfall Films, the media services and software solutions company is distributing its first title, The Wall — Climb for Gold, a feature-length documentary scheduled to debut to global audiences on digital platforms in early 2022.

It marks the first release of an ongoing slate of films and content offerings planned from Los Angeles-based Premiere Digital.

The Wall is produced by international production company Windfall Films (part of the Argonon Group). The film was made with the support of sports brand Adidas and follows four elite female climbers from the Adidas team over a two-year period as they battle to make it through the qualifying events to get to Tokyo for the first ever Olympic climbing competition. The journey includes a grueling season of competition and training that sees all their original plans in tatters as the COVID-19 pandemic forces the Olympics to be postponed. As they battle both mentally and physically en route to the games, the film offers insight into what it means to be an Olympian through an intimate look into the lives of these elite climbers: Brooke Raboutou (United States), Janja Garnbret (Slovenia), Miho Nonaka (Japan) and Shauna Coxsey (Great Britain).

Garnbret was a child phenomenon and holds the most world titles under her belt in the sport. Heralded as the greatest competition climber of all time and the overwhelming favorite for the Olympic title, she is under extraordinary pressure to deliver when it matters most.

Raboutou, 20, is one of the youngest competitors at the Games and must balance training and being a student at U.C. San Diego. Both Raboutou’s mother and father are legends of the sport, winning numerous World Cup titles in the 1990s, and she hopes to continue the family success.

Nonaka, the 2018 Bouldering World Cup champion, is a Tokyo native and must overcome all the extra pressure of representing her country in her home city.

Coxsey is one of the most successful British climbers in history, with Bouldering World Cup titles in 2016 and 2017. Coxsey has fought to overcome serious injury but hopes to continue her success with a record-shattering performance at the Olympics.

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The film is directed by Nick Hardie (“Formula 1: Drive to Survive”), features a score by multi-award winning composer Nainita Desai (The Reason I Jump, For Sama) and is edited by Emily West.

The Wall is an intimate, emotional and epic story charting the astonishing journeys of four inspiring athletes from across the globe,” Dan Kendall, executive producer for Windfall Films, said in a statement. “The film provides a unique window into the climbers’ lives, capturing their amazing strength of character. With its broad international appeal, The Wall — Climb for Gold will excite and engage audiences across the world.”

“It is absolutely fitting that the first film we are distributing as part of our new distribution business is a remarkable story about dedicated, passionate and goal-oriented female athletes who overcome obstacles and challenges abound to reach new heights,” Steve Rosenberg, chief commercial officer, Premiere Digital, said in a statement. “We are truly excited to bring this incredibly riveting and inspirational documentary to audiences worldwide and look forward to a prosperous future working with filmmakers and content producers to have their stories shared.”

The Wall — Climb for Gold was created by Windfall Adventures Ltd, a subsidiary of Windfall Films. Windfall was supported by Adidas in the making of the film but throughout retained complete independence and editorial control, according to the press release.

Netflix to Bow Documentary Series on Tennis Star Naomi Osaka

Netflix will bow an untitled documentary series on tennis star Naomi Osaka, in association with Uninterrupted and produced by Film 45.

The series follows multiple-Grand Slam-champion Naomi Osaka, who became the first Asian player to reach the No. 1 singles ranking after winning her first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open in 2018 and second at the Australian Open in 2019.

The documentary series also gives audiences a window into the life of a global tennis superstar. It will cover Naomi’s pivotal year, from the U.S. Open in August 2019 and on tour with the tennis star as she plays in each of the Grand Slams and prepares for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, Osaka emigrated from Japan to the United States as a child, where she rose to become the first Asian player to reach the heights of international tennis. The series follows Naomi to Japan to understand her connection with the country she represents and the reflections of her multi-cultural identity.

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“To be able to tell my story and let people in during this big year, working with a team that really understands me, has been a rewarding experience,” said Osaka in a statement. “It won’t look like a traditional sports documentary, and I’m so excited to share it with everyone.”

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The series is directed by Garrett Bradley whose short film Alone was shortlisted for an Academy Award. At Sundance 2020, Bradley won Best Director for her U.S. documentary feature in competition TIME.