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The Introduction of Live Sports to Netflix

Netflix is reportedly expanding its content this year by introducing live sports to the platform. See the details about which sports and when they’ll air.

Netflix’s real sports coverage thus far has only come in the form of various sports-related docuseries. Though there have been reports of Netflix potentially diving into the world of live sporting events. Will it happen? Take a look at the recent events below.

Is Netflix Getting Live Sports?

A June report from the Wall Street Journal has revealed that Netflix plans to host its first live-sports content on the platform later this year, as the company is hoping to stage a celebrity golf tournament which will stream live exclusively on Netflix.

The announcement came during the Q2 2023 earnings call, as co-CEO Ted Sarandos stated that the match would take place in November, in part “...because it serves as a promotional vehicle for our sports brands like ‘Full Swing’ and ‘Drive to Survive.’”

Little other information regarding the competition has been announced at this point, except that the event would be held in Las Vegas later this year and may feature a group of celebrities competing with one another. According to the WSJ, the tournament is likely to be a “one-time event.”

The event may be a kind of litmus test for the company to investigate how live sports works on the platform and what kind of audience it may attract.

What Other Sports Content is Available on Netflix?

The decision to move into the realm of live sports follows an increasing number of sports-related series released on Netflix in recent years. Speaking about the event earlier this year, Sarandos indicated that the tournament would feature personalities from two Netflix docuseries — Formula 1: Drive to Survive and Full Swing.

Drive to Survive debuted in 2019 and has since been renewed for four seasons. The show is a collaboration between Netflix and Formula One, which offers a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the drivers and races in the Formula 1 World Championship. The series has featured many icons of the sport, including Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo.

Meanwhile, Full Swing, another collaboration between Netflix and a major sporting entity — the PGA Tour — launched earlier this year with an eight-episode season, featuring many of the top professional golfers in the nation, including Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Brooks Koepka. The series was renewed for a second season in March following its release in February.

Two other docuseries, Cheer and Last Chance U, focus on collegiate sports through the lens of a cheerleading squad and a group of upcoming athletes, respectively. The former is set in Corsicana, Texas, and focuses on cheer coach Monica Aldama and her team over the course of two seasons. The latter series, running since 2016, has focused on athletes at Mississippi Community College and Independence Community College, located in Kansas.

But perhaps Netflix’s most successful foray into sports was its collaboration with ESPN on the hit docuseries The Last Dance, a retrospective of Michael Jordan, one of the greatest of all American athletes. The series, among the most popular limited programs to have been produced by the company, was a critical and commercial success and served both as a survey of Jordan’s career as well as a dramatic portrait of his full 1997-98 season with the Chicago Bulls.

More series are in the pipeline or currently available on Netflix, including Unchained: Tour de France, which made its debut earlier this summer, Break Point, following rising tennis stars Nick Kyrgios, Iga Świątek, Taylor Fritz, Ons Jabeur and more, and Quarterback, which provides an in-depth look at NFL players such as Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Will There Be More Live Sports on Netflix in the Future?

Speaking about the potential upcoming celebrity tournament this fall, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos clarified that Netflix’s “position in live sports remains unchanged.” So far the streaming service has remained outside the live sports broadcasting empire, even as other streaming giants — and some of Netflix’s fiercest competitors, including Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube TV — aim to expand into the market.

“We really think that we can have a really strong offering for sports fans at Netflix without having to be part of the difficulty of the economic model of live sports licensing,” said Sarandos, clarifying the company’s position on the matter in an earnings meeting earlier this year. Therefore the upcoming golf tournament will be an “experimental” venture for the service, which will test the waters and indicate how live sports broadcasting would affect Netflix’s business model.

As reported in the LA Times earlier this summer, live sports could hold significant benefits for Netflix, however, not least as a method of bolstering subscribers to the developing ad-supported streaming plans which will become available this November. Ad-based plans are particularly salient for live sports broadcasting, as viewers are drawn at an appointed time and place, making it a convenient and lucrative venue for advertisers.

The live-streamed tournament could, in turn, show whether the platform can sustain millions of simultaneous viewers streaming a single event, a model which Netflix has adopted for stand-up comedy specials in the past.

For the moment, subscribers will have to wait and see whether Netflix will continue to expand with more sports programming or whether this November’s potential celebrity golf tournament will be a one-off event.

Curious about the best options for streaming live sports for you and your family? Find the right service and plan for you this year.

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