What’s your favourite box-set?’ is as almost as much of a personality identifier as ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ these days with binge-watching some of TV’s best dramas and comedies a regular hobby for the majority of people. The demand for a good series is at its peak, along with the rising popularity of serial documentaries.
A huge proportion of people you ask between the ages of 18-40 will have seen Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones or Making a Murderer, and now the Arizona Cardinals have brought sport into the box-set conversation with big-budget Amazon Prime series ‘All or Nothing’.
It is a wonder why one of the big streaming companies has taken so long to take on the challenge of making an original real-life sports series. Sport, as so many fans around the world know, is just as dramatic as any series finale shoot-out, last minute confession or romantic gesture, and can provide just as much elation or heartbreak.
‘All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals’, to give it its full name, is as much a sports documentary as it is a reality show, so much so that they could’ve considered calling it the rather catchier, Keeping Up with the Cardinals.
There is always a negative stigma around reality shows but here it allows unprecedented access to elite athletes at the top of their game rather than a group of airhead celebrities. Clubs are constantly trying to give fans as much as access as possible to the players whether it be YouTube challenges or Snapchat takeovers but this could be a giant step forward in how sports teams embark on content creation.
But just because the series follows one team, it doesn’t mean that it’s produced with only Cardinals fans in mind. Like any other TV series, you are able to build up a connection with the characters, which is even more enjoyable if you have no idea who they are. And that’s part of Arizona’s plan, in the hope that this project can expand their brand and identity which has the potential to build their fan base.
The fact the Cardinals and the NFL decided to team up with a streaming service like Amazon, available to people worldwide, shows the ambition that they aimed for with the series, with the league itself still also trying to develop into a truly global brand. An ambition also matched by the narration provided by a true box-set legend, Jon Hamm, famous for playing Don Draper in Mad Men.
This level of engagement means that should Arizona come to London in the near future, they may have an authentic fanbase, as opposed to those who just don the colours of a travelling team for the day.
The idea of this ‘behind-the-scenes’ style profile on a particular team is nothing new. American producer HBO, has been running its own series called ‘Hard Knocks’ for over a decade, where it joins a different team every year for pre-season training. As of yet it is not readily available to audiences outside the US. This weekend industry-leaders Netflix joined the party with superb new release ‘Last Chance U’, yet another American-football based series which has been dubbed the ‘real-life Friday Night Lights’.
Infamously, Liverpool were the first Premier League side to take on the challenge of producing their own fly-on-the-wall programme that was somewhat predictably met with mixed reviews. Most likely the brainchild of its American owners, ‘Being: Liverpool’ was made to develop the LFC brand across the Atlantic, but instead caught the headlines for all the wrong reasons as Jamie Carragher was so Scouse he needed subtitles and Brendan Rodgers showed off his best David Brent impersonation. It was also released on the back of the club’s worst Premier League finish in 18 years, so even their own fans were on the warpath, let alone the rival fans poking fun.
That is not to say that a Premier League club couldn’t produce something on the level of ‘All or Nothing’ or ‘Last Chance U’, with the right people behind it and enough access to actually bring out the the great personalities we know the league has but so rarely get to see the full extent of.
Maybe the clubs feel the level of commitment needed is unnecessary, as they already get enough media coverage around the world with the annual procession of pre-season tours. Or perhaps American football ‘all or nothing’ plays just look better in slo mo?
Either way, there’s still hope that clubs will have learnt from Liverpool’s blunder and one of the streaming giants will get behind a big-budget production that can do the Premier League justice.