ESPN’s “Last Dance,” co-produced with Netflix, debuted this past Sunday (April 19) on ESPN networks and on Netflix outside the U.S. The 10-episode series will run for five weeks on ESPN and Netflix internationally, through May 17, before it hits Netflix’s American service.
“The Last Dance” will launch on Netflix in the U.S. on July 19, the company announced as part of its first-quarter 2020 earnings announcement. The streamer netted nearly 16 million subscribers in Q1, attributed to COVID-19 quarantines, more than double its previous estimate.
For ESPN — suffering from a lack of live sports — the first two episodes of “Last Dance” were a ratings smash, delivering an average of 6.1 million viewers and making it the cabler’s most-viewed documentary to date. On Netflix’s Q1 earnings interview Tuesday, chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the company “similarly saw enormous viewing around the world on the first two episodes of ‘The Last Dance,'” but he didn’t offer specific metrics.
“It’s been a win-win for us and ESPN and a great win for basketball fans, who’ve been very hungry for new programming,” Sarandos said. He said that because of “the complexity of the rights and the footage” it would have been very difficult for either ESPN or Netflix to produce “The Last Dance” independently.
“Last Dance,” directed by Jason Hehir (“The Fab Five,” “The ’85 Bears,” “Andre the Giant”), features previously unreleased footage from the Bulls’ 1997-98 season. Separately, to promote ESPN’s U.S. linear broadcast, the programmer’s ESPN Plus subscription-streaming service is running a companion series, “Detail: 1998 Chicago Bulls,” featuring Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr and head coach Phil Jackson breaking down key games and moments from that season.