For at least a decade, there’s been discussion about Netflix getting into live sports. And that’s been despite company executives’ repeated comments that they’re not that interested in live sports rights given the price, the country-by-country rights issues (important for a highly-global business like Netflix), and the limited on-demand value. But Netflix has gotten into sports documentaries in a big way, and they have made some moves on the live sports front recently as well, including bidding for Formula 1 rights (where they lost out to Disney/ESPN/ABC).
And now, those two things look to be coming together. As per Sarah Krouse and Jessica Toonkel of The Wall Street Journal, Netflix is preparing for their first live sports event this fall. That’s going to be a celebrity golf tournament, one featuring drivers from their Formula 1: Drive To Survive docuseries andbPGA Tour golfers from their Full Swing docuseries. Here’s more on that from that piece:
The company is in early discussions about the golf tournament, some of the people said. Set in Las Vegas, the event would feature celebrities from “Drive to Survive,” a docuseries about Formula One auto-racing, and “Full Swing,” which followed professional golfers during the 2022 season, they said.
The move would mark Netflix’s first foray into live-streaming of sports, something executives have debated for more than a year. Discussions about the tournament are in the early stages, some of the people said.
As that piece notes, this seems like a reasonable way for Netflix to test out the live sports waters in a comparatively low-stakes way. In particular, it may be interesting to see how their technology handles this if there’s a lot of demand. They successfully live-streamed a Chris Rock comedy special in March, but hit major issues with a Love Is Blind reunion show in April, which they wound up having to release on-demand.
It may also be interesting to see how this works with Netflix’s nascent advertising-supported model, as live sports have long been a desirable property for advertisers. At any rate, there’s certainly an audience for some celebrity golf tournaments, as shown by the annual American Century Championship in Tahoe, the various versions of The Match franchise and more. And doing one with stars from some of Netflix’s sports docuseries makes sense. But it’s interesting to see them coming up with their own event rather than gaining rights to an existing property. We’ll see when more details on this come out, and how it does.