After years of speculation and waiting, Netflix which has become famous for blockbuster movies and series, is reportedly in talks about entering the live sport sector. More precisely, the platform will stream a celebrity golf tournament featuring professional golfers and Formula One drivers in the fall.

Netflix’s Sports Ambitions

Netflix has always been known to not do sports. However, in recent years, the platform has shown increasing interest in the area. Last year, for instance, the company placed a bid for Formula 1 broadcast rights in the US.

Unfortunately, the platform lost the rights to ESPN/Disney which according to François Godard, senior media and telecoms analyst at Enders Analysis, was due to it not having established itself in sports.

This year, it seems the company is still determined to take part in the streaming of live sports. In January, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos said “We aren’t anti-sports, we’re pro-profit.” He added that the company had not yet figured out how to make a bid for major league sports rights in a manner that was profitable for the business.

According to The Wall Street Journal’s sources, the company is in early discussions about a golf tournament. The tournament, which will be held in Las Vegas, is said to involve celebrities from “Full Swing,” a documentary following professional golfers during the 2022 season. Additionally, celebrities who are featured in “Drive to Survive,” an auto racing docuseries, are also expected to take part.

The company’s executives have been debating the move for more than a year but it is still early to determine Netflix’s stand since the talks are still in progress. Regardless, a tailored, talent-driven golf tournament makes perfect sense as Netflix’s first venture into sports streaming.

In the United States, the rights to most popular sports franchises are already locked up by mainstream media brands for several years, including broadcast rights to National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and National Hockey League (NHL) full season games.

Aside from the high competition involved in landing these sports streaming deals, it has also become very expensive and difficult to stream them live. This explains why Yahoo broadcast an NFL game from London in the early hours of the American morning before attempting anything more complex, and why ESPN’s first-ever broadcast was of a slow-pitch softball game.

However, in most cases, sports live streaming has proven to generate huge income in the long run. As such, in an effort to entice new customers and boost their ad sales, several sizable streaming companies have begun to pay for major sports-rights packages, from football to baseball.

An Attempt to Convince League Licensors

Photo courtesy of What’s On Netflix

Netflix has mainly avoided bidding for those deals and has instead specialized in documentaries and docuseries where it has seen great success. Its “Formula 1 Drive to Survive” series, for instance, has helped the global racing league gains widespread recognition since it debuted in 2019.

The golf and tennis games documentaries, “Full Swing” and “Break Point” respectively have also been great successes. Consequently, the company is working on an NFL version titled Quarterback, which is slated to release in July.

Aside from the F1 attempt last year, Netflix has reportedly been looking into competing for the rights to tennis and cycling events as well as making investments in less well-known leagues.

Therefore, the golf event will provide an opportunity to sample live sports streaming without having to fork over money for one of the major-league packages. It will also serve as a way for Netflix to demonstrate to leagues and marketers that it can handle more complicated events.

While the company is yet to live stream sports, it has made several attempts to live stream other shows. Its first live event was a Chris Rock comedy special in March, which passed without a hitch.

However, it also had a massive failure in April when it attempted to stream the reunion episode of its reality series “Love is Blind” live. After users suffered an outage that lasted for more than an hour, the firm apologized and decided to capture the incident and release it again the following day.

According to Ed Desser, president of sports media consulting firm Desser Media, given the difficulties it encountered with the “Love is Blind” reunion, Netflix’s decision to choose a celebrity golf tournament as its first sporting event to live stream shows that the business is taking precautions.

“They need to give potential licensors comfort that it’s all going to work before going for mission-critical sports events. This is a relatively low-risk proposition,” Desser said.

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