Major production companies fueling Hollywood’s sports content boom

  • Sports production companies, many launched by pros like Tom Brady, are feeding viewers’ appetite for sports.
  • Netflix’s Formula 1 series “Drive to Survive” is the model that other streamers and leagues hope to emulate.
  • Insider identified 11 major companies producing scripted and documentary sports content to fuel the boom.

The NFL is entering the growing world of sports production by investing in a new joint venture with David Ellison’s Skydance Sports.

The NFL hopes to capitalize on the growing demand for a wide range of sports content with the intent of becoming the Marvel Universe of sports.

The football league game is well timed. Demand for sports-themed programming became hyper-competitive in 2022 and continues to grow in 2023 as networks and streamers vie for products that cost a fraction of live sports but offer a built-in fan base. Viewers, it seems, have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about athletes as varied as Shaq to Sue Bird, and will tune in to see the leagues and teams they follow.

Individual production entities, some owned and run by professional athletes, are getting in on the action and many, like Tom Brady and Michael Strahan’s Religion of Sports, are attracting new investment from private equity sectors. “The market seems to be growing,” Ameeth Sankaran, CEO of Religion of Sports, told Insider in November. “We’re fast and furious on pitches with everyone.”

“I think it’s a constant,” said Constance Schwartz-Morini, co-founder with Strahan of SMAC Entertainment, of investor interest in the space. “I’m always hearing about another background. Michael and I own our company,” she said, adding that they are open to negotiations at the right time. Investment firms Shamrock, RedBird Capital and Providence Equity made sports content plays, with Shamrock leading an investment in Religion of Sports in June.

Among the most aggressive buyers of content from companies like SMAC and Religion of Sports are streaming platforms Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Disney’s channel empire, from ESPN to Hulu and Disney+. Netflix was a bidder for the Formula 1 rights and many observers believe it is only a matter of time before the streamer makes its foray into live sport, although the company has repeatedly scrapped the idea.

“You look at Netflix or Amazon, they’re all looking for content that differentiates and appeals, something that lives behind a paywall, something unique and exciting,” said Josh Pyatt, co-head of WME Sports, which specializes in non-content. scripted.

“It’s a great opportunity to grow your brand with someone else’s money — it’s free marketing,” Pyatt told Insider in a November interview, referring to the model that sports leagues and platforms are eager to emulate: Box to Box. Films’ back-the-scenes of the Formula 1 documentary series, “Drive to Survive”, which has been credited with expanding motorsport’s audience.

A wide range of sports-centric documentaries are captivating viewers – from “Welcome to Wrexham” on FX via Hulu, which follows actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenny as owners of a Welsh football team, to “All or Nothing” on Amazon Prime, which has taken viewers inside the locker rooms of teams including the Dallas Cowboys, Arsenal FC and New Zealand All Blacks.

“People are really intrigued by what they believe ‘Drive to Survive’ has done for F1,” Marie Donoghue, vice president of sports at Amazon, told Insider, adding that leagues are also watching the content boom. “The more established leagues see the heightened interest from streamers and sports networks for unscripted programming.”

Donoghue, who joined Amazon from ESPN where he was featured on the network’s legendary “30 for 30” docuseries, also sees opportunity and has brought 10-year Amazon veteran Matt Newman onto his team as head of original content. in March.

Speaking with buyers, sellers and other industry stakeholders, Insider identified 11 production companies producing the most sought-after sports content. These tiles are poised to capitalize – with many attracting investment and acquisition interest – as Amazon and other streamers continue to buy.

This list was first published in November 2022 and has been updated.

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