Netflix is adding live sports

November 9, 2022
According to a report published yesterday, the streaming giant has been quietly plotting its expansion into live events.
Sports BusinessGeneral
Netflix is adding live sports

The GIST: Netflix is finally hopping on the live sports bandwagon. According to a report published yesterday, the streaming giant has been quietly plotting its expansion into live events — and eyeing which sports properties it could snap up without breaking the bank.

The details: Execs are strategically zeroing in on budget-friendly, lesser-known sports to avoid paying for expensive, short-term media deals. They believe Netflix’s visibility could increase those properties’ popularity à la Drive to Survive, the streamer’s Formula One (F1) doc that put the championship on the map in America.

  • In a move to improve ROI, Netflix is also exploring the idea of investing in sports leagues that will be featured on its platform. Doubling down.

The properties: The streamer is looking into acquiring rights to various cycling competitions and the WTA Tour in the U.K., and has already placed some unsuccessful bids for other events. It reportedly dropped out of the race for ATP rights in some European markets, and lost the bid for F1 U.S. streaming rights this year.

  • Netflix was also allegedly hoping to buy the World Surf League late last year, though the deal fell apart after the parties couldn’t agree on a price.

The context: Nearly all of Netflix’s competitors have live sports, and Amazon is the industry’s poster child. Prime Video is averaging 15.7 million for Thursday Night Football (TNF) broadcasts eight weeks into its deal with the NFL. Results vary, though — those TNF numbers are still down 5% YoY, while Apple TV+’s MLB foray has experienced some strikeouts.

  • That said, live sports could still win where shows like Blockbuster aren’t. An estimated 160 million Americans will tune into live sports this year, eclipsing the 73.4 million combined Netflix subscribers in the U.S. and Canada.

Zooming out: Live sports are proving to be the one constant in the current media landscape, potentially inspiring Netflix to change its business practices considerably. This move begs the question: Can streamers survive without live sports?

  • While its competitors take a splashy approach to livestreaming, Netflix’s bet on lower-profile sports may be more than just economically savvy. Niche programming is having a moment, especially in the sports industry. More bang for your buck.