MLS eye Drive to Survive-style doc as US league looks to gain fans

The company behind the popular Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive has agreed to a partnership with Major League Soccer in the United States. Box to Box Films, headed up by Academy Award and multi-BAFTA award winning producer James Gay-Rees, will produce a documentary on the division, the league’s deputy commissioner Gary Stevenson told The Athletic.

MLS signed a £2.1bn ($2.5bn) media rights deal with Apple lasting ten years – and it’s likely any series or content that Box to Box produces will be on their Apple TV+ platform. The company has also recently tried to shed light and highlight other sports such as golf and tennis through two recently-debuted Netflix series’ Full Swing and Break Point.

But it’s Drive to Survive – the Netflix documentary that just released its fifth season – that has seen the sport of Formula 1 grow in popularity, especially in the United States, which has seen audiences almost triple since 2018.

According to The Athletic, a Drive to Survive-style docuseries about MLS has been discussed, however “specifics have not been finalised”.

Major League Soccer could be perfectly positioned to increase its popularity through the recent craze surrounding serialised sports documentaries that give insight into individual teams and clubs around the world.

Most notably in football, teams such as Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham have benefitted from the Amazon series All or Nothing. Amazon also gave German giants FC Bayern Munich their own series – FC Bayern – Behind the Legend.

Other popular series include FX’s Welcome to Wrexham and other shows about clubs like Sunderland and Leeds United.

In 2019, Los Angeles FC documented their inaugural season with We are LAFC. This season, as part of the content available to subscribers on MLS Season Pass, the Philadelphia Union are filming and releasing The Union Way.

MLS commissioner Don Garber says that the partnership the league has with Apple allows clubs to do something in the style of Drive to Survive – and use the company’s popularity to grow their audience.

He said: “Every team has the opportunity to do their own ‘Drive to Survive’ and have the largest technology and most innovative consumer-facing company in the world provide the platform for that.

“You think about what was so original and engaging and what put F1 on the map in this country. This is going to be a test for our teams.

“They are required to provide some amount of content, because that’s the MLS thing – to centrally ensure that our teams are doing what they need to do to support a collective effort.

“But I can assure you that the teams that are really, really good will create very innovative, exciting globally interesting content, and that will drive subscribers.”

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