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‘Sport is the next frontier’: There’s belief Netflix is about to completely take over live sport


Netflix, live sport, golf, F1, cricket, NFL

“Old school television is dying. And streaming is taking over.” 

Those are Mark Cuban’s words and the soon-to-be former Dallas Mavericks owner may just be right. Streaming is everywhere; people watch Netflix or Stan on the bus, in the school ground, and of course in lounge rooms across the globe.

We’ve heard and seen it for years. The streaming revolution has consumed almost all forms of entertainment. And globally, sport is now succumbing to the new era of consumption habits. 

Soon, we may exist within a traditional television-less world, with a generational consumer behaviour shift, away from TV-centric consumption of bygone years towards streaming and even smaller screens.

For sports fans across the globe, it’s either get with the times or give up. While television still holds much of the power when it comes to sports broadcasting, that dynamic is rapidly shifting. 

In Australia, Paramount+ almost exclusively broadcasts the A-Leagues, while you won’t find the Premier League anywhere other than Optus Sport.

US sports ownership, mark cuban, nba, nfl, mlb
Mark Cuban believes streaming is poised to take over the sports broadcasting world

Similarly, the ICC and Amazon Prime Video have inked a four-year agreement, making the streaming platform the Australian home for all ICC events, including the cricket World Cups.

Around the world, similar stories are playing out.

Apple TV+ recently locked in a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal to become Major League Soccer’s exclusive worldwide broadcaster, a move made all the more savvy by Lionel Messi’s arrival in Miami.

While Disney has confirmed ESPN’s future lies in the director-to-consumer streaming domain.

Yet within this sea of streaming platforms hunting live sporting assets, many are asking where, and when, will Netflix fit into this equation.

Cricket World Cup preview
A recent agreement means Amazon Prime Video is Australia’s new home of the ICC World Cup

Will Netflix ever enter live sport streaming?

Let’s allow Netflix co-CEO, Ted Sarandos, take the lead here.

“We are in the sports business, but we’re in the part that we bring the most value to, which is the drama of sport,” he explained.

Boy, don’t they do that well.

Following a highly popular, extremely effective blueprint laid by the popular Drive to Survive series, which provides viewers with a peak behind the F1 circuit curtain, Netflix has become the global go-to for sports drama doccos.

Since Drive to Survive launched in 2019, couch sitters have been flooded with similarly-styled shows, providing in-depth, innovative coverage of a range of sports. 

Amongst others, this push has created Quarterback, Full Swing, and Break Point, with ventures into the NBA world planned as well. 

As non-live sport entertainment goes, such documentaries are nearly peerless. 

On top of these behind the scenes offerings, the streaming platform also hosts or produces a suite of the finest ‘traditional’ sporting documentaries on offer right now, including the hugely successful Beckham documentary.

Netflix Cup, golf, formula 1, netflix
Pitting F1 drivers and golfers against eachother, the Netflix Cup, was the streaming giant’s first live sport foray

“We’re having a big impact on sports through the thing we’re most great at, which is the drama,” Sarandos reiterated. 

But given we’ve seen the streaming giant venture into the live sport domain with the Netflix Cup, recently held and broadcast during the week of F1’s Las Vegas Grand Prix, many are starting to believe Sarandos’ words are simply smoke and mirrors covering the platform’s larger sporting plans.

Will Netflix take over live sport streaming?

Speaking on the Bill Simmons podcast, entertainment reporter Matthew Belloni expressed his view that Netflix’ venture into live sports streaming is a matter of when, not if.

“It’s inevitable,” he said of the streaming giant, whose global reach extends to 250 million people, entering live sport entertainment.

“The sports thing is the next frontier.”

Part of his rationale for the streaming behemoth’s entry into the world of live sport, akin to Apple TV+, or even Optus Sport, is its advertising arm, Netflix Ads.

Sports, in particular American sports, are heavily geared towards advertising.

At times it can feel like you’re watching three hours of advertising, with a little bit of football or basketball sprinkled in between for whoever wants it. Such productions feel aimed at a maximisation of advertising space, rather than viewer experience.

It may feel overbearing, and even frustrating, but broadcasters are in the business of making money.

NFL 2023, season preview, dates, contenders
NFL is one of the world’s most commercialised sports, thanks largely to huge audiences and plenty of ads

Analysis conducted in 2020 found the average regular season American football game raked in about $22 million in advertising revenue, rising to $42 million for post-season games, and up to $500 million during the Super Bowl. 

Netflix likely see this revenue as simply too good to ignore for their growing advertising arm.

“We know that brands want to align with specific shows that are contextually and culturally relevant to their marketing objectives,” Netflix VP of global advertising sales, Peter Naylor, noted. 

As part of the streaming giants push into the world of advertising, Naylor announced the company would be offering title sponsorships, essentially allowing brands to become the premier sponsor for a show or season.

Netflix sprinting documentary
Netflix is taking us on a deep dive into the world of sprinting

Sounds incredibly familiar, doesn’t it, sport fans?

Globally, just about every sporting match is brought to you by someone or something; whether its gambling partners, beer magnates, car brands, and just about everything in between.

For Netflix, and its advertising arm, breaking into the sporting world and maintaining a solidified, market-leading presence could mean a boom for new business, opening doors to consumers who might’ve otherwise avoided Netflix’s allure altogether. 

With so much money and market share on the line, it does seem as though the live sport streaming frontier is next in line for Netflix’s all-conquering capacity.

“We are investing heavily in live capabilities. So, as demand grows for that and we find different ways that the live-ness can be part of the creative storytelling, we want to be able to do that at a big scale. 

Ted Sarandos’ words, ladies and gentlemen.

Just about says it all, doesn’t it?

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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