The British and Irish Lions are in talks with Netflix and Amazon Prime about a behind-the-scenes documentary of the tour of South Africa next year, from the perspective of both teams.
The Daily Telegraph revealed in July that the Lions had reached a ground-breaking deal to allow film crews to make a fly-on-the-wall documentary featuring footage from inside both camps for the first time during next year’s six-week, eight-game tour.
The video diary of the Lions’ 1997 tour of South Africa remains one of the most iconic sports documentaries, and although subsequent productions have failed replicate that commercial success, both parties hope that this new joint venture could land a lucrative broadcasting deal, with the costs of the tour expected to be approximately £18 million for the Lions.
“We’re discussing the behind-the-scenes documentary with lots of different potential documentary makers,” said Ben Calveley, the Lions managing director.
“We like to think that we started this whole trend of documentaries, given the wonderful Living with the Lions back in ’97. We’re really interested in putting together a documentary and we’re speaking to all the people you would expect us to be speaking to.
“What we’re really excited about is the potential to tell the story from both camps, because we have a very close relationship with the South African Rugby Union.
“That means that you get access to both of those camps and you can tell the behind-the-scenes story not just from the Lions’ point of view, but from the Springboks’ point of view,” he added. “And I don’t think we’ve ever seen that in any of these sports docs.”
Despite the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic, Calveley is confident the tour will go ahead and revealed that there has been unprecedented interest from Lions supporters, five times the interest shown for the 2017 tour of New Zealand. “We had approximately 3,000 pre-register for the (official) travel programme in New Zealand. This time around we had 15,000 pre-register for the travel programme,” Calveley said.
“If you look at things like the one-year-to-go point and just look at the number of engagements across social channels back in 2016 we had, I think it was, 96,000 engagements on social channels and that compares to 1.2 million at the equivalent point in the 2020 cycle. So there are all sorts of different metrics I could give you that show the level of interest is really high.”
The Lions schedule includes five warm-up matches, against Stormers, in Cape Town, on July 3, a South Africa Invitational XV in Port Elizabeth, on July 7, Sharks in Durban, on July 10, South Africa A in Nelspruit, on July 10 and the Bulls in Pretoria, on July 17.
The Lions then face the world champion Springboks in three Test matches, in Johannesburg, on July 24, Cape Town, on July 31, with Johannesburg hosting the final match on Aug 7.