You’ll be shocked to hear this, but Netflix isn’t interested in live sports rights.
Instead, the streamer wants to focus on its “sports adjacent” programming, such as docuseries Drive to Survive, Full Swing, Break Point, and Quarterback.
On Wednesday’s earnings call, co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the company is only interested in events that can pump sports-adjacent programming. Netflix wants to focus on “exceptional storytelling” rather than “the liveness of the game.”
Co-CEO Ted Sarandos was definitive that content spending will not include live sports, save for events that can boost other “sports adjacent” programming. A celebrity golf match with Formula 1 drivers and professional golfers “is something we’re excited about,” he said, as a promotional tool for series Formula 1: Drive to Survive and Full Swing. Others include Tour de France: Unchained and Quarterback.
The costly economic model of live sports licensing is too difficult, Sarandos said, preferring Netflix “to introduce a brand-new audience to a sport that has been around for a long time. And you do that through exceptional storytelling, not through the liveness of the game.”
Sarandos also addressed the company’s upcoming first foray into live sports: a celebrity golf tournament in November. “We’re excited about that because it serves as a promotional vehicle for our sports brands like Full Swing and Drive to Survive,” he said.
He also brought up “the difficulty of the economic model” of licensing live sports rights.
There seems to be a lot of focus on streaming live sports, but based on comments from Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, it appears the company plans to largely stay out of that game for the moment. “We really think that we can have a really strong offering for sports fans on Netflix without having to be part of the difficulty of the economic model of live sports licensing,” he said during the company’s second quarter earnings call on Wednesday.
While live sports rights are expensive, Netflix isn’t exactly going the cheap route on sports-adjacent programming. Earlier this month, the streamer reportedly struck a $50 million deal for the NFL Films/Skydance Sports Jerry Jones docuseries.
One of these days, people will stop asking Netflix about live sports. Ten years ago, the company said they weren’t interested in live sports. That opinion didn’t change in 2015, 2017 (twice), and 2018 (twice). In 2022, the tune slightly changed, with Netflix admitting the company would need a “big profit stream” to start streaming live sports and that they were “pro-profit” as opposed to “anti-sports.”
The only live sport Netflix has been legitimately linked to over the last decade is Formula 1. In 2021, co-CEO Reed Hastings said Netflix “would think about” bidding for F1 rights. They tried to get involved in the most recent round of bidding last summer, but the company reportedly “wasn’t close” on its monetary offer. ESPN retained F1’s rights on a three-year deal paying an estimated $75 to $90 million per year.
Formula 1 was the most logical set of live sports rights for Netflix to acquire. If its bid was so far off from the eventual winning rights fee, diving into live sports rights probably isn’t the best strategy for the company.