Exclusive: Sky want to rival Netflix to make Premier League documentary

Sky want to rival Netflix to make Premier League documentary - AP
Sky want to rival Netflix to make Premier League documentary - AP

The Premier League’s single biggest broadcast partner Sky would be interested in making the proposed documentary series about the league that was raised at last week’s shareholders’ meeting.

The 20 clubs were told on Wednesday that the makers of “Formula 1: Drive To Survive”, which was streamed on Netflix, had proposed a similar series for the Premier League, although there are no guarantees that Netflix would be the only contender to make it.

As the single biggest media partners to the Premier League, Sky – which is owned by the US telecommunications giant Comcast – will signal its interest in producing and distributing a series through its sister US company NBCUniversal.

Acquired by Comcast in 2018, Sky currently pays around £3.6 billion for its rights package over the three-year cycle, rolled over from the previous deal with government permission last year. The broadcaster has played a key role in the 30-year rise of the Premier League with its pay-TV model. Comcast-owned NBCUniversal incorporates Universal Studios and would – via its parent company – expect to be in contention were the 20 Premier League clubs prepared to agree to a major documentary series project.

The clubs were told on Wednesday that the league would investigate the parameters of a deal, which would also involve speaking to existing broadcast partners. As well as the right to broadcast games live, the league’s media partners negotiate behind the scenes access to players and coaches as part of their deals. The current total broadcast contract value over three years is worth £10.3bn and Sky pays the single biggest figure of any domestic or overseas partner.

Sky have also told clubs that they are sceptical that Drive To Survive – a co-production between Netflix and Formula One –was in itself responsible for the explosion of interest in the sport in recent years.

As the British broadcast partner to the sport since 2011, with a contract that runs to 2024, Sky believes its coverage has been the key factor in that change along with partnerships built with the F1 teams.

The Premier League documentary market thus far has been dominated by individual club productions featuring Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal made by Amazon Prime under the umbrella of the 'All or Nothing' series, which has also included American sports teams, the Brazil national team and the All Blacks rugby union side.

The latest proposal would be a much wider ranging project and one of the difficulties would be separating its access from that of the current rights-holders. In addition it would require input from all 20 clubs. The Premier League also has its own in-house production, PLP, creating content for broadcast partners that had undergone a major restructuring this year.