‘Tiger King’ & Michael Jordan’s ‘The Last Dance’ Face Off In Emmy Documentary Battle

The almost first female POTUS is in the game, but the playoff in the Emmy docuseries looks to be a battle between Joe Exotic and Michael Jordan.

Facing Hulu’s Hillary, PBS’ venerable American Masters and HBO’s McMillion$, the very well watched Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness and The Last Dance snagged six and three nominations respectively from the TV Academy this morning.

With directing, picture editing, sound editing, music composition, sound mixing as well as Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series nods, the salacious Netflix series that everyone was watching and talking about in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown may appear on paper to have roared away with the genre. However, with big league doc series, picture editing and directing nominations, ESPN’s 10-part deep dive into the basketball legend’s career and last championship season at the Chicago Bulls may prove the winner on sheer star power and prestige.

Though they are distinctly apples and avocados, the numbers for the doc duo lay out a powerful playbook for either offering.

Debuting on April 19 on the Disney-owned cable sports net, the Jason Hehir directed Last Dance aired with back-to-back episodes weekly during a pandemic-induced lack of live sports on TV to average 5.6 million same-day viewers over its month-long run. Rising up to around an average audience of around 6.7 million once delayed viewing metrics were factored in, the Netflix co-produced The Last Dance took the prize as the most-watched documentary content ever in ESPN’s 40-year history.

In contrast, the about a former Oklahoma tiger-zoo owner who’s now serving a 22-year prison sentence for his role in a murder-for-hire plot and other charges pulled in 34.3 million unique viewers in the first 10 days of its release, from March 20-29, according to Nielsen. Eclipsing Stranger Things 2, Tiger King’s unique viewers metrics are indicative of at least two minutes of the initial eight-episode run. The Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin helmed series launched with seven episodes on March 20 and then came back with a ‘The Tiger King and I’ ep on April 12 as the show’s fervor was peaking.

More numbers released on April 17 from Nielsen revealed that the original seven episodes of blockbuster Tiger King racked up over 5.3 billion streaming minutes, according to the metrics company’s SVOD Content Ratings.

Of course, Tiger King has already spawned spinoffs of sorts with a Joel McHale hosted aftershow and a Nicolas Cage starring scripted series from Amazon in the works, among others.

With precedent often a major factor in the Emmys, this populist showdown could come down to what has gone before. Thanks to 2016’s Making a Murderer, 2018’s Wild Wild Country and last year’s Our Planet, Netflix has been the winner in the Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction series category three of the last four years.

But then again, as we all know, no one competes as hard as Michael Jordan and, unlike the incarcerated Joe Exotic, the NBA Hall of Famer and Charlotte Hornets owner is able to campaign, virtually or not. Because, while he may have a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Jordan doesn’t have an Emmy – yet.

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