The Red Sox will be featured in a Netflix documentary that will follow the team in 2024

The Boston Red Sox are already under the microscope, but the team's numbers will be even more so next season — but not for the reasons fans might normally expect.

The project, which has been in the works for the past three years, is coming to fruition, as MLB and the Red Sox announced on Wednesday that a Netflix documentary film crew will follow the club for the 2024 season. The production is scheduled to air on the streaming service in 2025. Additionally, Netflix will stream a separate documentary about the 20th anniversary of the 2004 Red Sox, which broke the organization's 86-year World Series title drought.

Filming for the year-long documentary is scheduled to begin at spring training, which begins next week. Unlike other sports documentaries like HBO's “Hard Knocks,” it won't be formatted as a weekly TikTok of team wins and losses, but instead focuses on the human interest element of the players' lives.

“A lot of people, even in the sports community, don’t fully understand what it means to play 162 games, which is unlike anything in professional sports,” Red Sox chief marketing officer Adam Grossman said. The athlete. “That's one piece, the other piece is that there are people behind these uniforms. They have interests and ideas, there's an endurance test that they pass (in the season) and there's a whole world that may not be shown in the same way that they think it should be shown.”

Although it may seem strange that a documentary crew would choose to follow a team that is not expected to be anywhere near the top of the league standings, the idea has been in the works since 2021 when executives from Netflix met with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in his capacity as well as the principal owner of the company. Red Sox John Henry and Chairman Tom Werner, who had a long career in television production.

Initial conversations did not include the Red Sox but focused more on how to use Netflix's global platform to drive interest in baseball. At the time of the initial talks, Netflix had just produced a hugely popular documentary about Formula 1 racing called “Drive to Survive,” which sparked significant interest in the sport.

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The Red Sox insisted that they would not receive any financial compensation from Netflix for the project.

“It's really a marketing initiative,” Grossman said. “This is something where there's no monetary element being changed, and it's really about bringing more people under the tent by telling stories in a way that they haven't been told before on a really important and growing medium.

“What we're seeing across sports is that there are more people who might be interested in the sport and the players, even if they didn't grow up with the game,” Grossman added. “Part of that is the platform and the tools they have now to bring people into a tent. And some of that is at Fenway Park, some of that will be on Netflix. Again, at heart, the fans want championships, and it's an unbelievable stadium. We're doing it, too. Only now, there's More opportunities to cast a wider net.

After discussing various documentary concepts for a year that focused on including multiple teams throughout a single season or following multiple individual players, MLB introduced the idea of ​​focusing on just one team. The Red Sox were among a few teams considered, and in September 2022, the idea began to take shape over a Zoom call that included Netflix executives and proposed director Greg Whitley, who had worked on previous Netflix documentaries “Last Chance.” U” and “Cheer,” as well as people from the Red Sox including Grossman, manager Alex Cora, and CEO Sam Kennedy.

It's no secret that baseball's popularity has waned over the past two decades with the rise of the NBA and NFL. The last two leagues have done a great job of marketing their players until they have become household names. The pace of baseball, although quickening last year, has a lot to do with its image and popularity compared to football and basketball, but marketing the game differently has also been a focal point. Bringing the game to a wider audience while focusing on the human element rather than the X's and O's seems like a good way to do it from an MLB perspective.

“We said, 'We don't have to do this, but there's nothing bigger than this opportunity,'” Grossman said of the debate over how to approach the Netflix project.

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Getting player buy-in and vision was crucial. Last April, when they had an idea of ​​how to format a potential documentary, Gabe Spitzer, Netflix's vice president of real-life sports, traveled to Boston with Whitley, the director, to meet with Cora, Kennedy, Werner and several people from Red Sox baseball operations including assistant general manager Raquel Ferreira, plus about 10 other players.

“We had no idea what was going to happen next, except that we had to make the opportunity happen, and if the players shut it down and said, 'There's no way,' we would move on. But that wasn't the case,” Grossman said.

Nick Pivetta, the Red Sox representative to the MLB Players Association, Trevor Story, and outfielder Rob Refsnyder, were key in bringing the idea to life from a player's perspective, who might be involved and how involved, as well as how to protect players I didn't want to have as much Front role in the project.

“These guys did a really great job of objectively evaluating this, looking at the positives, understanding that it was a little different and trying to make sure the team felt included and knew what was coming and there was an ongoing dialogue.” Grossman said. “Raquel, in particular, has had a key role in continuing that discussion with the players, from an organizational standpoint. So, it was a healthy process to evaluate something we had never done before.

There is no mandate from the team or Netflix regarding players' participation. Some may choose to be main characters documenting their trials and tribulations throughout the season and others may not. The shooting and story will be smooth.

“Not everyone wants to become a household name,” Grossman said. “Everyone has different focal points or different areas, so we talked to the director a lot, and just said, hey, not everyone is going to be up for this. There might be a sweeping shot of the dugout or in the clubhouse. That's one thing. Following someone home is It's a completely different matter… If people don't want to participate, we won't force them. He doesn't want to either, but we need to provide a lot of access, which we will do.

There is some trepidation in bringing a documentary film crew into the club mix. There's no telling all season long what kind of news surrounding the team might emerge. It's no secret that the Red Sox had a disillusioned fan base and produced a less than stellar product with three last-place finishes in four years. Managing all of that and making sure this project isn't a distraction during the season will be key.

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These are all matters that have been discussed and debated, Grossman said.

“We don’t know who the characters will be, and we don’t know what the story will be,” he said. “I think by definition when you can start thinking it through, of course there's going to be some thinking like, man, 'Are we sure?'

“The opportunity for that is really compelling, number one and number two, it's really important if we want to grow the game collectively, and the players, the league, the Red Sox, we have to do those things,” he said. “It's not just a cool thing. It's really important.”

Grossman likened the documentary to the debut of City Connect uniforms in 2021. The yellow and blue jerseys were a major departure from the traditional red and white home uniform, and revealing the bold color scheme was a big risk, even with the connection to the Boston Marathon. . They were nervous about the reception, but eventually fell into it.

“The fans and players ended up embracing it,” he said. “We believe, with the same mindset, that this will be the case.”

There will undoubtedly be a faction of the fanbase upset by the documentary, which may be seen as a distraction for the team. But time will tell how everything will develop. This project is clearly not one taken lightly and has been in the works for the past few years.

“I think it's going to be really interesting for those who are core and die-hard fans, but also for those who maybe have never watched a baseball game before,” Grossman said. “I think that from a platform standpoint is what makes this interesting for the players, for the game, and for us as well.”

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(Photo: David Butler II/USA Today)

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