What is the best way to get invested in a new sport? Not just watch the odd game, I mean really become an avid fan. How does someone go from never watching a certain sport to never missing a game? From not knowing a single player to knowing the name of the kit man? To go from knowing almost nothing to having a fairly comprehensive understanding of the history and intricacies of a sport?
Chucking on the TV for one off matches probably wouldn’t do it. For example I watch the Super Bowl most years, have a low to moderate level of understanding, know very few of the players and I’m no more invested in American Football than I was ten years ago. I bring up the Super Bowl as I think it draws some sort of parallel to Wimbledon in that for the majority of people it’s the one time of year they watch the sport. Tennis has failed to convert even the majority of people who play tennis into regular viewers, but why is that?
Here’s my take - it’s really difficult to immerse yourself in tennis compared to other sports. Take football for example. Football fans can get caught up in a crazy amount of social media content, video games, fantasy football games, behind the scenes insights/documentaries, podcasts and needless to say an endless stream of matches and highlight shows. The modern fan isn't just tuning into watch their favourite team, they’re living and breathing football.
That’s why it’s so important for tennis to have more for fans to sink their teeth into. Some avid readers of the blog may remember an article I did a while back which looked at how F1 had evolved in ways which appealed to a wider range of people, especially a younger audience, and how tennis could benefit from similar ideas. One of the big factors was the Netflix ‘Drive to Survive’ documentary style series. The series proved a huge success and has shown the way for other sports as to how effective these series can be at introducing new fans to the sport. A good indicator of how popular it's been is that it's 5th series is coming out in February.
After all this time, tennis may finally have its own version of Drive to Survive. In fact the new Netflix series, Break Point, which showcases life on tour for top tennis players - was made by the same people who made Drive to Survive. It’s a big step in the right direction for tennis, which failed to refresh its fan base after possibly the greatest era of tennis ever. Those in the tennis world hope that this series, which is being released in two instalments, will have a similar impact on tennis as Drive to Survive had on F1.
It will be interesting to see if tennis sees a spike in fans similar to the effect we have seen in other sports. The first installation of five episodes came out today and can be watched on Netflix now. So grab the pop corn, chuck on the tv and enjoy!