November 29, 2022

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Lions fail to sell documentary rights for South Africa tour as major broadcasters all turn them down

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The British Lions have been unable to sell documentary rights for the South Africa tour despite holding extensive negotiations with both traditional broadcasters and streaming giants. 

Sky Sports declined the opportunity to secure documentary access when winning the rights to broadcast their seventh successive Lions tour last summer, while talks with BT Sport, Amazon and Netflix have also proved unsuccessful to date.

The lack of a fly-on-the-wall series in the manner of the seminal Living with Lions documentary that charted Sir Ian McGeechan’s successful tour to South Africa in 1997 will be a major disappointment to fans, particularly as they will be unable to travel due to the pandemic. 

As it stands, there will not be a documentary film crew following the Lions in South Africa

As it stands, there will not be a documentary film crew following the Lions in South Africa

As it stands, there will not be a documentary film crew following the Lions in South Africa 

It was hoped Amazon might be keen to use the Lions for their 'All or Nothing' Prime series

It was hoped Amazon might be keen to use the Lions for their 'All or Nothing' Prime series

It was hoped Amazon might be keen to use the Lions for their ‘All or Nothing’ Prime series 

The 1997 'Living with Lions' documentary was a brilliant fly-on-the-wall look at Sir Ian McGeechan's successful tour to South Africa

The 1997 'Living with Lions' documentary was a brilliant fly-on-the-wall look at Sir Ian McGeechan's successful tour to South Africa

The 1997 ‘Living with Lions’ documentary was a brilliant fly-on-the-wall look at Sir Ian McGeechan’s successful tour to South Africa

In the absence of a production deal Lions staff have filmed Warren Gatland’s selection meetings and last month’s reconnaissance trip to their Jersey training base themselves in the hope of receiving a last-minute offer. Failing that the footage will be released on Lions’ own channels at the start of the tour.

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The failure to secure a documentary partner is a major setback for the Lions which could have significant financial implications as they seek to recoup tour costs of around £18million, with their revenues already hit by the absence of travelling fans. 

To compound matters the Lions’ pitch to broadcasters was for a genuinely ground-breaking documentary, as in addition to their own dressing room they were also offering film crews access behind-the-scenes access to the Springboks camp for the first time.

All of Warren Gatland's selection meetings have been filmed in the hope of a last-minute deal

All of Warren Gatland's selection meetings have been filmed in the hope of a last-minute deal

All of Warren Gatland’s selection meetings have been filmed in the hope of a last-minute deal 

The news is a huge blow for fans, who will not be able to travel as they have done for previous tours, like the famous victory over Australia back in 2013 (pictured)

The news is a huge blow for fans, who will not be able to travel as they have done for previous tours, like the famous victory over Australia back in 2013 (pictured)

The news is a huge blow for fans, who will not be able to travel as they have done for previous tours, like the famous victory over Australia back in 2013 (pictured) 

In an innovative deal the Lions have agreed a joint venture with South Africa Rugby to pool all their commercial and broadcasting ventures around a centralised programme. Previous tour documentaries have only gone behind the scenes of the Lions team and it had been hoped that this new package would secure an additional broadcasting partner.

Amazon’s reluctance to table an attractive bid was particularly disappointing, as they have previously included the All Blacks in their All or Nothing series of documentaries that has also featured Manchester City, Tottenham and numerous NFL franchises. 

The uncertainty over the tour schedule caused by the pandemic and the absence of colour provided by travelling fans are too of the factors that have deterred broadcasters from buying documentary rights.

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