Global over-the-top (OTT) subscription service Netflix has revealed that The Last Dance sports documentary series was watched by 23.8 million users outside of the US in its first four weeks.
The ten-episode series chronicling Michael Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls, with a focus on the 1997/98 National Basketball Association (NBA) season, has been a major hit for ESPN, the partner media company on the production.
Netflix is notoriously secretive with its viewing figures and its selectively reported 23.8 million audience metric is based on how many accounts watched The Last Dance for at least two minutes.
With the series’ release date brought forward amid a lack of live sports content due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Last Dance returned big numbers for ESPN. The US linear broadcasts averaged 5.6 million viewers across all ten episodes, making it the Disney-owned network’s most-viewed documentary in history.
Prior to the series going live on Netflix’s US service on 19th July, Disney’s US commercial broadcaster ABC will re-air two episodes a week over five weeks.
On Netflix’s Q1 earnings call last month, chief content officer Ted Sarandos said The Last Dance has “been a win-win for us and ESPN and a great win for basketball fans, who’ve been very hungry for new programming.” He added that the “complexity” of the rights and the footage would have made the series very difficult for either ESPN or Netflix to produce independently.
However, Libby Geist, vice president and executive producer for ESPN Films and original content, has said that the collaboration is unlikely to be repeated.
The deal was concluded before Disney launched subscription OTT services Disney+ and ESPN+, meaning it could not direct audiences to those platforms after the programme aired.
Speaking at the Leaders in Sport online forum, LeadersWeek.direct, Geist said: “I’m not sure that we’re looking to do that again soon, only because we both have our own businesses that we’re supporting.
“It would have to be another pretty special project for us to get different special permissions to do it again. But from a workflow standpoint and maximising the power of all of these brands, I think it’s been really great for The Last Dance and we’re thrilled with the results.”