We are now at the end of 2022. What a year full of emotion it has been. Next year (January 13), tennis’s first major advertisement to the world, Netflix’s ‘Break Point’- will air. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the approach taken with this new series, one thing is for certain- tennis will likely gain an unbelievable number of new followers. This can only be good for the sport.
What is so striking however is that tennis is considered the 5th largest sport in the world. Ironically, a much smaller sport, in Formula 1, already manages to pull astronomical levels of engagement, fortnight to fortnight, all year round. Post-US Open, you would be hard-pressed to find anybody in the general public who was tuning into any form of tennis. Formula 1, on the other hand, is flooded with conversation. Tennis is simply not covered in the papers during weeks like these, and there is no tennis equivalent of a Skip-and-Shannon-style debate show to keep the sport relevant to viewers. With limited discussion in mainstream circles- and almost no memes or dialogue occurring on social media about tennis, the sport finds itself in the precarious position of being completely usurped by smaller sports like Formula 1.
As well- the most worrisome aspect is the demographics. Astronomically more women follow formula 1, week to week, than tennis. In a sport that has its own dedicated tour just for women (WTA)- this is quite alarming. What is also cause for concern is that Formula 1 already dwarfs tennis in terms of weekly fan engagement. For instance, there are an assortment of different pages across social media dedicated purely to discussing the sport through memes. In fact- some of the more popular pages have close to a million followers, with constant engagement from fans and up to 10 posts every hour. Unfortunately in many cases, there is not enough talk about tennis during the weeks of Stockholm and Antwerp for people to converse about the sport.
You only have to look at the popularity of someone like Daniel Ricciardo to notice just how important that Netflix show was for the marketability of Formula 1. After the show began to air, an entirely new demographic began to follow Formula 1- non-sporting fans. This particular demographic traditionally never used to watch sports- but now can’t seem to get enough of Formula 1. It is also worth mentioning just how many of these new Formula 1 fans are women. This is quite a hard demographic to sell to- and the Formula 1 has done a freakishly good job of marketing the sport to this particular audience. This is the audience that the new Netflix series, ‘Break Point‘, is looking to cut into. Ultimately, Nick Kyrgios will reel in a bunch of brand new fans to tennis. This can only be a good thing- even if those fans are not tuning in to the round of 32 of the Cordoba Open.
Moreover, the difference in engagement between tennis and Formula 1 is astounding. Tennis is truly a sleeping giant, a beast ready to be awoken. Tennis, by default, already reaches a bigger audience than Formula 1. Almost no neighbourhoods have a racetrack. However, almost every municipality, in every major city in the world, has a tennis court. Billions of people have likely played with a tennis ball growing up. Whether it is just having a hit against a wall- or playing a game of fetch with a pet, the symbol of tennis is already present in almost every household on the planet
So, all in all, do you think the new Netflix series can make tennis just as popular as formula 1?