A Ballers S2 premiere photo. MIAMI BEACH, FL – JULY 14: (2L-R) London Brown, Donovan Carter, John David Washington, Arielle Kebbel, Dule Hill, Jazmyn Simon, Dwayne Johnson, series creator Stephen Levinson, Rob Corddry, Omar Benson Miller and Troy Garity attend the HBO Ballers Season 2 Red Carpet Premiere and Reception on July 14, 2016 at New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sergi Alexander/Getty Images for HBO)

There has always been a discussion about reach of where an event is broadcast, but that’s intensified in recent years for broadcast versus cable. That’s because rising levels of cord-cutting have increased that divide. But there’s also a notable divide on the streaming side when it comes to different streaming platforms, with Netflix having much more market penetration to date than its competitors.

And that’s led to interesting stories about rising viewership for years-old series now making their Netflix debuts, first Suits (originally on USA) and now sports agent series Ballers (originally on HBO, and previously mostly streaming on HBO Max/Max). The series originally aired five seasons from 2015-2019 on HBO. @TVGrimReaper on Twitter noted a more than 400 percent week-over-week increase for Ballers in the week it jumped to Netflix as well, and also mentioned that it hit 84 percent of the series’ June to mid-August viewing on HBO Max/Max in a single week where it was on Netflix as well as Max:

The increase for Ballers itself is notable here, as that series drew lots of coverage here for its look at the sports world and the various things that came with that (including executive producer Mark Wahlberg telling Dan Patrick director Peter Berg said they were getting NFL pressure over the series’ portrayal of the league, which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell disputed). It also drew plenty of attention in the sports media world, some positive-ish and some not so much. And one plot development on that show in 2018 wound up particularly media-relevant, where the show proposed combining the Pac-12 Networks with a surfing channel to improve distribution. (That might have worked out better than the decisions that were made on those networks, which played a key role in the current shrinking of the conference to four members.)

Beyond that, though, there’s a reminder here that not all streaming services have equal subscribers or attention. Netflix had an estimated 238 million global subscribers as of Q3 2023, ahead of Amazon’s Prime Video (200 million as of 2022) and Disney+ (146 million as of June), and well ahead of the likes of Max (82 million as of June), Paramount+ (61 million as of June), and Hulu (48 million as of June).

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean all U.S. sports content on Netflix is going to draw a massive audience, especially as that audience is highly-global. But that’s worth keeping in mind around the conversation around Netflix sports documentaries. With the Untold series, that series draws more discussion, both good and bad, than many competitors’ efforts. And that’s partly thanks to its Netflix-enabled reach. Similarly, Netflix’s F1: Drive to Survive (and even, to some degree, its golf and tennis follow-ups from the same production company, Box to Box Films) has generated more conversation than many behind-the-scenes series. So that helps explains why some series originating elsewhere, like the behind-the-scenes NASCAR one, may eventually head to Netflix.

And that gets more interesting still when it comes to the discussion around Netflix and attempts to crack the live sports market. The company has said forever they’re not particularly interested in that. And they only really put in a bid for F1 rights, losing out to Disney/ABC/ESPN, and are only trying live sports with a celebrity golf tournament with tennis players and F1 drivers. But that conversation’s never going to entirely go away, especially when league executives are seeing the viewing gains for these years-old series when they hit Netflix. That might even lead to a discount for Netflix on live rights. And that might be what gets the “pro-profit” company actually interested in live games.

[TV Grim Reaper on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.