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Netflix Tour de France series struggling to convince biggest teams to join

Tour de France 2021 - 108th Edition - 20th stage Libourne - Saint Emilion 30,8 km - 17/07/2021 - Tadej Pogacar (SLO - UAE Team Emirates)) - photo Jan De Meuleneir/PN/BettiniPhoto©2021
Defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) would be a star in a possible Netflix Tour de France documentaty (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Netflix Tour de France ‘Drive to Survive’ documentary series is struggling to secure the participation of several leading teams due to concerns about editorial control, privacy, and polemics during the sport’s biggest race of the season, as well as fees paid to the teams. 

Cyclingnews understands that UAE Team Emirates with Tour de France reigning champion Tadej Pogačar are not currently signed to be part of the documentary series, with only five of the biggest eight teams said to be so far onboard. 

QuickStep-AlphaVinyl team manager Patrick Lefevere has confirmed in his weekly column with Het Nieuwsblad that his team will take part, but Cyclingnews has been told that Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers have doubts about signing up. 

Ineos Grenadiers said simply: "No comment" when contacted by Cyclingnews. Jumbo-Visma dismissed suggestions they are not on board, but did not confirm their participation. Cyclingnews understands that the Dutch team is one of at least five WorldTour teams willing to be part of the project, so the documentary series will follow Primoz Roglic and Wout van Aert during the 2022 Tour de France.

"It's true that UAE Team Emirates, like several other teams, were approached to participate in the show. However the terms for being protagonists for the first season were not agreed," UAE Team Emirates told Cyclingnews.

“We like the general idea but we're not pressured to rush into anything. The door is open for participating in the future."

Netflix's Formula 1 documentary Drive to Survive had similar problems during its first season, with leading teams Mercedes and Ferrari not signing up.

On Thursday, Telegraph Sport reported that Netflix is in discussion with the Tour de France organisers ASO and eight WorldTour teams – including British squad Ineos Grenadiers – for a docu-drama series with Box to Box Films, who created the Drive to Survive series, set to produce.  

Teams understand the potential commercial value of being part of a successful Netflix series. They have seen the success of the Formula 1 documentary and how it has boosted the fan base and interest in that sport.     

However there are concerns about a video crew being totally embedded amongst riders and staff during the most intense and important race of the season. They are especially concerned about not having editorial control of the final documentary and are worried that some scenes could offend or anger their sponsors. 

Swearing by a directeur sportif in the heat of the moment could, for example, cause problems, with teams well aware how Movistar's The Least Expected Day documentary series revealed the disputes and tactical mistakes in the Spanish team. 

Cyclingnews understands that the teams have been offered €50,000, with riders not paid anything individually due to their existing image rights contract with their teams. Additional revenue could be shared if the series is a success. 

ASO owns the rights to filming at the Tour de France but the Netflix documentary needs behind-the-scenes access in team cars, the team bus and hotels to be a fly-on-the-wall documentary. 

Lefevere described the fee offered to the teams as peanuts but is on board, with a video crew set to start filming at their Belgian service course in the next few days.  

"Ideally, the upcoming Netflix series takes the entire cycling world to the next level. And then I hope that the contribution to the teams will increase accordingly. If not, I'll make my own series again. And it goes to the largest bidder on the market," Lefevere threatened in his column.

"I know how it goes with documentaries like this. Agreements are made in advance about who and what may be filmed, but it always comes down to the same thing: you shake hands and they want an arm. 

"Other teams are making different choices. For example, UAE Team Emirates is not participating. And I understand why. Financially - certainly for the teams - it is peanuts. ASO first passes the cash register and then, as usual, there is little left. I have now pledged verbally, but with moderate enthusiasm and with reservations. If the fee for the teams doesn't go up in the future, it's not worth it."

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.