Netflix (NFLX) may be considering a plunge into the pool of live sports broadcasting—a move its executives have been cautious to make—but they’re starting with a dip. The company is negotiating its first live sports broadcast: a golf tournament scheduled for later this year with professional golfers and Formula One drivers, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The event will reportedly bring together personalities from two Netflix’s documentary series: Drive to Survive, the five-season show following Formula One drivers, and Full Swing, which launched in February and followed celebrity golfers including Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Netflix hasn’t yet broadcast live sports, but it has carved out a related niche by making docu-series about sports events, including Cheer and Break Point.
While Netflix has been around longer than any other streaming platform and leads the pack in profits, its executives have been slow to commit to live sports. Other streaming platforms—including Peacock, YouTube, ESPN+ and Amazon Prime Video—have invested in exclusive rights to live sporting events with price tags in the billions. Amazon is reportedly paying $1 billion per year over 11 years for Thursday Night Football. After its first season, which concluded in January, viewership is down and it is unclear how lucrative the move will be for the e-commerce company.
Netflix has slowly stepped into live coverage in recent years, which could prepare the streaming giant for a future in sports. It broadcasted a live comedy festival in 2022 and a Chris Rock special earlier this year. It was supposed to show a live Love Is Blind Season 4 reunion in April, but technical issues delayed the broadcast.
What have Netflix executives said about streaming live sports?
Co-CEO Ted Sarandos is most concerned about profitability. “We have not been able to figure out how to deliver profits in renting big league sports in our subscription model,” he said during the company’s January earnings call. While Netflix executives are open to the possibility of live sports in the future, it’s not yet beneficial to the company, he said.
Reed Hastings, the Netflix co-founder and longtime CEO who stepped down in January, also previously said he wasn’t interested in streaming live sports. Hastings still works as chairman of the board.
The reported discussions suggest Sarandos is finding a way to make sports profitable. Netflix hasn’t included advertisements in any of its previous live broadcasts, but it could boost its revenue. The company has become increasingly interested in diversified revenue streams recently. After eschewing ads for 15 years in the subscription streaming business, Netflix launched an ad-supported tier in November. Sarandos also has ambitions to build out Netflix’s consumer products business, he said in an April earnings call.