Last week, MLS re-announced its partnership with Box to Box Productions, the company that made the hit Formula 1 series Drive to Survive. The partnership will produce a documentary series on Major League Soccer. For F1, Drive to Survive was a massive success in expanding the audience of the motorsport league. Apple wants the same impact with Major League Soccer. However, there are concerns about whether it can deliver the same effect.

James Gay-Rees is one of the producers of Drive to Survive and is one of the founders of Box to Box Productions. Gay-Rees says documentaries, like Drive to Survive, are the future of sports programming because of the audience they draw in.

“All sports are competing for the same younger audience,” he said. “Modern audiences are fascinated by what goes on with athletes behind the scenes.”

Netflix, which streams Drive to Survive, said its sports documentaries delivered enormous value. The streaming service also has Break Point and a series about the Tour de France. The variety of content allowed Netflix to say it was “having great success,” as reported in its third-quarter earnings.

F1’s audience grew substantially because of the documentary series, and that was a credit to the in-depth storytelling the series did on the drivers. Those who watched Drive to Survive felt a connection to the drivers. But can it do the same for MLS on Apple TV+?

MLS will try to ‘replicate’ Drive to Survive

Paul Martin, the other founder of Box to Box Productions, says part of the intrigue for the rise in sports documentary series is that they cover different sports. Netflix has streamed documentary series on Formula 1, tennis, golf, cycling and more.

“We’ve never approached them from a perspective of: Let’s just replicate Drive to Survive on every single one of the shows,” he said.

However, that is what MLS is going to try and do. Major League Soccer wants to capture audiences in the same way Drive to Survive did in the United States and across the world. Since the launch of Drive to Survive, Formula 1 has seen consistent viewership increases over the last four years. While it is hard to develop a true, direct causation relationship, the correlation between the docuseries and viewership of the sport certainly exists.

Major League Soccer viewership has been equally hard to quantify because of the prominence of MLS Season Pass and the secrecy about the viewing numbers that Apple and MLS do not want to share. However, an in-depth look at MLS and its clubs could give fans added reason to watch. Additionally, people will tune in to watch Lionel Messi. If Box to Box and the producers can get access to Messi, people will tune in, which could spark more viewership for MLS games and MLS Season Pass subscriptions.

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MLS drive to survive: A legitimate look at MLS?

The question remains as to whether viewers of this docuseries will get a true look at the ins and outs of Major League Soccer or a sterilized version Apple and the league want fans to see. In other words, Apple may control what the documentary crew records and uses in the final program. Only showing the positives would put the league in a good light at the same time that it avoids any drama that transpires in the league.


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