Bookmaker Paddy Power today announced it is releasing a new football-themed sitcom that will be aired on linear TV and streamed on Amazon Prime. While branded content and short branded series have become fairly common in the social media age, it’s fairly unique to see a brand create and air a full-length TV show and have it distributed on national television.
The Irish company, which owns betting shops in the UK and Ireland and runs online gambling platforms, has written its own sitcom “The VAR Room”. The series will be shown on terrestrial television in Ireland, debuting tonight at 10.30pm on Virgin Media Two. It will also be available on the Amazon Prime streaming service from later this month.
The sitcom focuses on VAR, or video-assistant referee, the somewhat controversial tech introduced into football leagues over the past few years which reviews decisions made by the referee using video footage. The series will take a tongue-in-cheek look at “what really happens” behind the scenes.
“The VAR Room” is set in Stockley Park, west London, the home of VAR since the Premier League adopted the practice in 2019. The sitcom stars former Premier League referee, Mark Clattenburg, as well as former football players Teddy Sheringham, Paul Ince and Alan Curbishley.
Although the series has debuted previously on Paddy Power’s social media channels, this represents the first time the branded content has been put onto terrestrial television and streaming services.
Brands producing content like social video is becoming an increasingly common way for them to reach customers. But it is rare for them to make longer form content like the 23-minute episodes that Paddy Power has produced and even rarer for them to appear on terrestrial television.
In April, Pepsi partnered with ViacomCBS in the US to bring a branded dating show to MTV screens. However, unlike the Paddy Power sitcom, Pepsi’s dating show was not a listed programme, instead clips were played during the advert breaks to form a whole show.
L’Oreal is another brand that is experimenting with long-form content marketing. “Run Le Hair Show” is a seven-episode online video series about the cultural impact of hairdressing. The show’s producers have said in future seasons they would like to explore the possibility of being picked up by a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime.