Discovery Sports Events, the promotional arm of the US media giant, is keen to use the new docuseries for the UCI Track Champions League (TCL) to secure additional commercial and fan interest for the second season of the nascent cycling series later this year.
Back on Track, launched at an exclusive global premiere in London yesterday (March 31), is a five-part series that covers the inaugural season that was held in late 2021.
The docuseries will launch on April 4 on the Eurosport app and GCN+, the online road cycling network, as well as the Discovery+ streaming service at a later date, and features exclusive behind-the-scenes content.
The TCL was launched in March 2020 as a joint initiative between Discovery Sports Events and the UCI, cycling’s international governing body, under an eight-year partnership with the aim of building the global profile of track cycling beyond the four-year Olympic cycle, and “bringing a fresh new approach to the sport’s racing format designed to attract existing and new fans alike”.
François Ribeiro, head of Discovery Sports Events, believes the new docuseries will help to fulfill the ambitions they set out.
Ribeiro said: "It is a marketing asset, definitely. We will go first on OTT – Discovery+ and GCN+ – and we’re going to promote it very heavily on Eurosport and during the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France when a lot of cycling fans are watching, just to show them that there is something else beyond road cycling.
“Then we’re going to go linear broadcast on Eurosport immediately off the back of the World Championship, in between the World Championship and the beginning of season two of the TCL.
“So, for us, it’s also like a teaser to draw attention and get people to watch and attend season two, that’s the way we’re going to use it.”
Ribeiro added that they will be open to sub-licensing Back on Track in territories where Eurosport is not available, such as in Australia, the US, and Japan.
According to the organizers, the first season of the TCL delivered on its ambitions to reach new fans with 50% of the spectators at the opening round in Mallorca watching a track cycling event for the first time while the series reached a wide audience across the Discovery network.
Documentary series have become a significant trend in sports, largely inspired by the success of Formula 1’s (F1) Drive to Survive offering on Netflix, which is now into its fourth season.
The series has been credited with driving significant fresh interest in the top motor racing series – especially from a younger demographic – since its first season aired in 2019.
Such has been its impact that a number of other sporting properties have sought to replicate its formula, including the Formula E all-electric motor racing series, tennis’ ATP and WTA, and US golf’s PGA Tour.
Ribeiro said: “Back in March 2020, when we announced our partnership with the UCI in Berlin, we committed to growing the appeal of track cycling beyond the Olympic Games through the UCI Track Champions League, leveraging all Discovery resources to bring a narrative to the sport and tell the stories of these riders.
“We have bought all the action from the velodrome, now we are going even further to tell the stories away from the track and introduce the riders, and the sport in general, to a broader audience.”
Ribeiro is also keen to use the docuseries to increase the commercial value of the competition ahead of the second season.
The sponsorship portfolio for the debut campaign included Amazon Web Services, the technology subsidiary of the internet giant, as global data partner, wearable tech brands Bkool and Whoop as official series partners, and Italian firm Santini as the official kit supplier.
The Discovery Sports Events head believes the exposure on the docuseries is a unique selling point due to the company’s control over the content and the reach it can provide.
He said: “The series is an investment we have done for the sport but also an investment we have done as a promoter. It’s an extra opportunity to feature sponsors and locations because we have full control of the editing. It’s a marketing tool to tease the following season.
“The way we are going to promote it will be global because of GCN+ and Discovery+. In a few months, Discovery+ will merge with Warner which will probably make it the biggest OTT platform in the world to promote those kinds of programs.”
The second season of the TCL will return in late 2022 with plans to expand the series into additional territories.
The inaugural campaign featured four rounds in Mallorca (Spain), St Quentin en Yvelines (France), Panevėžys (Lithuania), and London (UK). An event was also scheduled to take place in Tel-Aviv in Israel but was ultimately canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The organizers continue to have plans to take the series globally but have opted to remain in Europe for the second edition.
Ribeiro explained: “The intention is still to go global but it will take a bit longer than we initially expected. Season two will still be very much Euro-centric. We will have new destinations next year.
“We will export the Champions League outside Europe for sure. We had interest from many countries outside Europe but with Covid and travel restrictions etc, we decided it was a much safer option to concentrate on Europe.
“We set the bar quite high in terms of on-event experience and on-screen experience from season one but we definitely have a lot of ideas to raise the bar for season two to provide an even better experience for fans, to attract new fans into the sport, and give them the appetite to come back the year after.”
The TCL was shown by 26 broadcasters last year, which included France Televisions and Eurosport in Europe, Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, Claro Sports in Latin America, TVE (Spain), RTL (Netherlands), RTBF (Belgium), SBS (Australia), Sky (New Zealand), and RTVC (Colombia).
Ribeiro expects to secure “over 30” broadcast partners for this year’s edition.
Meanwhile, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the body that runs the Tour de France, has confirmed the launch of a new docuseries on major streaming platform Netflix based on this year’s edition of the iconic road cycling race.
The series will be created in partnership with commercial broadcaster France Televisions and produced by Quadbox, a joint venture between production firms Quad and Box to Box Films – makers of Drive to Survive.
The Netflix series will consist of eight episodes and follow eight teams taking part in the race.
This is not Netflix’s debut in terms of a cycling docuseries. Across the 2019 season, it covered the Movistar team from Spain, with that series proving successful enough for a 2020 repeat to be commissioned.
The streaming giant will also show the docuseries featuring the ATP and PGA Tour.