Netflix's First Live Sport Event is Just an Advert
Who is going to take out a subscription for a novelty pro-am golf tournament?
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After months (years) of speculation and discussion, on November 14 we are going to see Netflix venture into broadcasting live sport for the first time. Sort of. The streamer has not won the rights to show a prestigious global league. Instead, they have created a pro-am golf tournament called The Netflix Cup. F1 drivers from its hit series “Drive to Survive” will compete against PGA golfers who feature in its “Full Swing” show at an event in Las Vegas.
Gabe Spitzer, Vice President, Nonfiction Sports, Netflix said:
We love to see how our sports series have brought increased fandom to sports leagues and competitions all over the world, The Netflix Cup will take that energy to the next level with global stars from two popular hits competing in our first-ever live sports event.
Norb Gambuzza, PGA TOUR Senior Vice President, Media and Gaming, added:
The PGA TOUR is proud to participate in this significant milestone for Netflix and we look forward to showcasing our sport’s professional athletes to a live global audience. New and diverse audiences have come to know more about both our sports and their athletes through “Full Swing” and “Drive to Survive,” and we are excited to team up with Netflix, Formula 1 and the Las Vegas Grand Prix on this exciting concept.
TL/DR - it’s all a PR exercise.
When the idea was first revealed back in June, I wrote that it “makes complete sense to me. It is another chance for Netflix to strengthen its live-streaming muscles while further highlighting existing shows and exploiting the IP at the same time.”
All that remains true. But it is similarly true that if it sticks only to events of its own creation, Netflix will get nowhere near challenging what many of its rivals are doing in this space. Getting into sports costs money and lots of it. For example, the NBA rights are up for renewal, but there is currently no indication that Netflix has any interest in making the statement that buying them would be.
Even with the PGA players' involvement, the reality is The Netflix Cup is an exhibition. Branded, celeb-powered sports events away from the big leagues can draw an audience. Just look at the excitement that surrounds YouTuber boxing events and the money they can bring in. However, they are mostly a bit of fun, a novelty that is popular with a certain demographic. They are not akin to deciding who the heavyweight champion of the world is. Perhaps that is more the world Netflix wants to be in, and that’s fine. It is certainly cheaper. But it is not “proper” sport.
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