In a little over a day, the flagship tennis television series ‘Break Point’ will premiere internationally on January 13. For the greater part of a year now, fans and stakeholders alike have waited patiently to see what this series could do for the sport of tennis. On the one hand, tennis purists have voiced their concerns about exactly what the new Netflix series will cover. On the other hand, a considerable tranche of tennis fans have been optimistic about what could lie ahead for tennis as a whole. Nevertheless, whether one agrees or disagrees with the approach taken with this new series- tennis will likely gain an unbelievable number of new followers. This can only be a good thing- given that accessibility has always been the Achilles heel of the sport.
You only have to look at the popularity of certain Formula 1 drivers to notice just how important the 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 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 break into. Ultimately, Nick Kyrgios will reel in a bunch of brand-new fans to tennis. This seems like the purpose of the entire Netflix series- even if those fans are not tuning in to the round of 32 of the Cordoba Open.
However, many pundits also fear that this new Netflix series runs the risk of being a reality TV display, rather than one centred on tennis. Peripheral subjects, such as relationships between players and their spouses, may indeed feature in certain segments of this series. Another concern has also been the fear that players may be playing it up for the cameras. Regardless- this series will likely reel-in a huge number of people who enjoy that style of television. From a marketing standpoint this series will have succeeded.
In a sense, given the limited discussion of tennis in mainstream circles, the sport needs anything it can get to stay relevant. Nick Kyrgios, despite all the naysayers over the years, has surprisingly brought renewed interest in doubles tennis. During his Australian Open doubles run, a legion of younger fans came to watch doubles tennis. This is a success for tennis, in and of itself. Notwithstanding, tennis has had a real hunger for a while now to promote its Masters 1000 and ATP 500 and 250 tournaments. If this Netflix series can somehow bring people to watch the Masters 1000 events, it will be deemed an unbelievable success. It is quite incredible that a sport as big as tennis can only manage to foster interest for 8 weeks (four grand slams) out of a total 10 months in the season. The Masters 1000 arena has produced some extraordinary battles over the years – yet the average casual grand slam fan has no interest in it.
What is so striking is that tennis is considered the 5th largest sport in the world. Ironically, a much smaller sport, in Formula 1, manages to pull astronomical levels of engagement, fortnight to fortnight, all year round. What is also particularly worrisome is the demographics, with astronomically more women following formula 1, week to week, than tennis. In a sport which has it’s own dedicated tour just for women (WTA), this is quite alarming. 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. Thus, tennis innately is a more popular sport than Formula 1, with or without its version of Drive to Survive.
All in all, do you think tennis’s Netflix series will appeal to tennis fans- or simply be tennis’s answer to Keeping up with the Kardashians?