Find out where, or if, Canadians will be able to watch programs from the new factual TV streaming service.
The highly anticipated ten-part basketball documentary series The Last Dance, about the 1997-98 championship season of the Chicago Bulls featuring Michael Jordan, began airing on April 19, 2020.
The series was jointly commissioned by ESPN and Netflix, and is produced by Mandalay Sports Media in association with NBA Entertainment and Jordan's personal holding company Jump 23.
Because the series was jointly ordered by ESPN and Netflix, distribution of the series is split. ESPN will debut the series on its U.S. linear channels on Sunday nights with two parts a week, from April 19 to May 17, 2020.
In all markets outside the United States, including in Canada, the series will be available on Netflix, with each week's new episodes available the day after their American debut (i.e., Mondays starting April 20) at 3:01 a.m. EDT / 12:01 a.m. PDT.
Will it be available anywhere else?
Update – May 19, 2020: ESPN's sister broadcast network ABC has announced that it will be re-airing the series on Saturday nights from May 23 to June 20, with two episodes airing each week from 8:00–10:02 p.m. EDT/PDT.
ABC is, of course, typically included in the basic tier of Canadian cable/satellite TV service providers (except for some "skinny basic" packages), alongside over-the-air availability in some areas near the Canada–U.S. border. So for those in Canada that want to watch The Last Dance without a Netflix subscription, this will likely be your only opportunity to do so.
Note that due to stricter limits on language on U.S. over-the-air stations compared to cable networks, this will likely be the "bleeped" version which aired on ESPN2, whereas the dialogue in the ESPN / Netflix version is intact.
Could it air on TSN as well?
Typically, high-profile ESPN documentary series like this one would be available to air on ESPN's international networks around the world, including partner networks like TSN and RDS in Canada (in which ESPN is a minority owner).
In most of these cases, such as the 30 for 30 series, ESPN produces the documentary in-house, or purchases perpetual worldwide rights from the producers, and therefore can easily sublicense its rights to its affiliated companies or partners.
This does not seem to be the case with The Last Dance – this ESPN press release seems to make clear that Netflix has exclusive distribution rights outside the United States.
As such, we expect that The Last Dance will not air on TSN – or for that matter any other ESPN-affiliated networks outside the United States, at least for the forseeable future.
Thanks to reader Jon E. for his Twitter question prompting this post.