The first rule of media: The NFL always wins. A docuseries about Jerry Jones and the heyday of the Dallas Cowboys just sold to Netflix, and the price is just under $50 million, according to two sources familiar. The deal isn’t done, but Netflix emerged as the winner of a bidding war with ESPN, after Amazon and a couple others showed early interest. (Netflix declined to comment on the deal.)
A couple interesting storylines here: It’s a big flex for NFL Films as it ramps up a new partnership with David Ellison’s Skydance Sports. That price for a Jerry Jones show surprised me, given it’s about an owner, not a star player, and NFL football isn’t popular globally. But it’s 10-episodes, and Apple TV+ is paying $20 million or more for some player-and-musician-driven documentary films. The Jones project includes never-seen footage and interviews with Cowboys stars like Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith. And it has already drawn comparisons to The Last Dance—and that show’s heavy dose of 1990s nostalgia—since it focuses on the Cowboys’ rise as “America’s Team,” with their three Super Bowls in the early ’90s under Jones’ hands-on, star-powered ownership. It’s another sign of the booming market for premium sports docs, which is likely to grow hotter the longer the writers (and possibly actors) are on strike.
It’s also another big move in sports-adjacent content for Netflix, which has resisted live sports but now has the F1 Drive to Survive show, Full Swing with the PGA, and Break Point with pro tennis players, plus Quarterback, also with NFL Films, coming out next week. It’s also, if we’re being honest, a portrait of two media companies going in opposite directions. ESPN bid aggressively for this project, I’m told, and the money was about the same as what Netflix offered (though Netflix did outbid). Ten or even five years ago, ESPN probably would have closed the deal, especially since ESPN/Disney is already an NFL partner. But here, Netflix was apparently considered the more appealing global platform—and Netflix isn’t suffering from cratering carriage and dozens of on-air talent layoffs just this week.