Just ahead of the Superbowl, today, Disney has surprisingly dropped three ESPN football documentaries onto Disney+ in the United States, “Deion’s Double Play”, “The Book of Manning” and “Four Falls of Buffalo”.
The Book of Manning
A father-and-son story written into the pages of football folklore, it can be argued that no family has had more influence on a sport than the Manning’s. Archie – the patriarch – a star quarterback at the University of Mississippi and then with the New Orleans Saints, followed by oldest son Cooper, whose football dreams were cut short by a spinal condition, then sons Peyton and Eli — both of them quarterbacks, All-SEC, No. 1 draft picks, back-to-back Super Bowl champions and MVPs.
Deion’s Double Play
Brash. Electric. Magnetic. It would be hard to find another athlete whose brilliance on the field was such a manifestation of his persona beyond it as Deion Sanders. Sure, there were other stars who played more than one sport, and there were other figures whose individuality got your attention – but there was no one who did it quite like the man who loved the spotlight so much, he called himself “Prime Time.”
Four Falls of Buffalo
In 1989, the Buffalo Bills were a talented team full of big personalities — including future Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed. Dysfunction and in-fighting ran as deep as the talent in their locker room, but the team known as “The Bickering Bills” would soon transform themselves into an elite force.
While Disney adding these titles, could just be to help promote the Superbowl, this could be a signal that there could be a significant increase in new sports-related content being released on Disney+ in the United States in the future, since these three new releases open the door for lots of new content that could be available to Disney+ subscribers. ESPN’s 30 For 30 series has over 150+ documentaries, all of which would make good additions to the Disney+ library, by providing an opportunity for some cross-promotion with ESPN, while also boosting the content available on Disney+ in the US.
While the ESPN documentaries being added onto Disney+ in the US is brand new. It’s not entirely new for Disney+ elsewhere, as over the past couple of months, Disney has been adding dozens of ESPN documentaries onto Disney+ around the world, including in the United Kingdom, which now has almost 50 ESPN shows available. And Australia and New Zealand are also set to get lots of ESPN content in February. And in some countries, including Indonesia and India, Disney+ Hotstar also offers live sports.
Here’s an example of some of the ESPN content that is currently available on Disney+ in the UK:
Adding sports documentaries to Disney+ in the US is a shift in strategy, in providing more general entertainment content for older viewers. Especially as these documentaries are rated TV-14, it’s also an easy, quick fix for Disney, since these documentaries are already in the Disney+ eco-system, because they are available in other countries.
The release of these ESPN documentaries could be a test to see if there is interest in sports content on Disney+ in the US. However, I’d expect more releases to follow, since if this is an experiment, three random titles aren’t much of a sample. More importantly, these ESPN documentaries continue to expand the scope of what Disney+ offers. Especially as other streaming services like Discovery+, Amazon, Netflix, Peacock and Paramount+ all have some sports-related content available to subscribers.
There have been lots of discussions in recent months about the future of Hulu, which also offers selected live ESPN content, and how in the future, a unified Disney+ with content for everyone is possible, especially since internationally, Disney+ is already offering more choice through the general entertainment brand, Star.
Over the past few months, there has been pressure building on Disney+ in the United States to provide more content for adults, and Disney CEO Bob Chapek is aware of the situation and working on it. While adding some ESPN documentaries isn’t going to fix those issues, it continues the trend of pushing the boundaries on what Disney+ is for US audiences.
There is little doubt, that these new ESPN documentaries being added to Disney+ in the US are blurring the lines between Disney’s streaming services. Which can confuse consumers, but can also be a preview of what’s to come.
Would you like to see more ESPN content on Disney+ ?