Year-End Awards: Best Content

By Adam Stern

Best Content: “Formula One: Drive to Survive”


The success that Netflix’s “Drive To Survive” series has unlocked for Formula One in 2021 is so significant that it raises the question as to whether it’s become one of the greatest content marketing successes in sports history.

The series, which ran its third season this year on the streaming platform while filming the fourth version that will be released next year, certainly did more than enough to win Best Content of the year honors.

The fourth season could end up being a candidate to repeat in this category, because F1 just wrapped up one of its most dramatic years ever. Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen won the championship in smash-and-grab fashion with a last-lap, controversial pass of Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton at last week’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That final race began with the two leading drivers tied on points for the first time since 1974.

“Drive to Survive” has led to newfound growth for F1 in the U.S., which is aligned with ESPN for its live-race media rights through 2022 and is adding to its American calendar. A second annual U.S. race is scheduled for next year in Miami in addition to its regular stop in Austin, with the possibility of a third race in Las Vegas coming as soon as 2023. 

Netflix hasn’t released exact viewership data around the show, but a company spokesperson said that Season 3 was the most-viewed yet while McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told Business Insider that its viewership is more than 50 million globally. Google Trends data shows that searches for F1 in the U.S. dating back to 2004 peaked this year.

50 million

Reported viewership globally, according to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown; Netflix does not release streaming figures.

The show has faced a small amount of criticism from some hardcore F1 fans who feel it embellishes things going on in the sport to turn them into conflict. That view was bolstered when Verstappen revealed to the Associated Press earlier this year that he’s not participating in interviews with the show because he feels it has overly dramatized situations with him in the past.

Still, the growth that “Drive to Survive” has helped spark in the sport is increasingly undeniable. This year F1 wrapped up its best season on U.S. airwaves, averaging 934,000 viewers across ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 for races in 2021. That breaks the previous record of 748,000 set in 1995 and is up 39% from 2019. Social media is also filled with people — including a ream of celebrity and media influencers — who proudly proclaim their affinity with the series after watching “Drive to Survive.”

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