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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Netflix Finally Joins Live Sports Space With Golf

  • Newly created golf event to feature PGA Tour, Formula 1 stars
  • Effort designed as initial foray by the streaming giant into live competition

The newly created Netflix Cup — a made-for-television event developed by the streaming giant — is hardly on the level of an established golf major or championship in another top sport. But it does represent Netflix’s first move into live competition — and the entire business of sports will be paying close attention.

Expected for months and building on a series of well-received sports documentaries, the Nov. 14 Netflix Cup golf tournament — featuring Formula 1 and PGA Tour athletes from the company’s popular “Drive to Survive” and “Full Swing” docuseries — will serve as a lead-in to the inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Staged in Las Vegas, the Netflix Cup will represent a key test of both the company’s ability to handle the mechanics of live sports streaming and the crossover appeal of golf and auto racing stars. Each of four competing pairings will include an F1 driver and PGA Tour golfer, somewhat similar to the format of Warner Bros. Discovery’s celebrity golf showcase, “The Match.”

“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,” said Gabe Spitzer, Netflix vice president of nonfiction sports. 

Both the PGA Tour and F1 have sanctioned the event, which is seen as a trial balloon for the company without incurring the heavy cost and multiyear commitment of top-tier live sports rights. Prior Netflix bidding efforts for live rights to sports properties such as F1 ultimately lost to more aggressive competitors, but the company has streamed some live events in other genres, to varying degrees of success.

“We’re not anti-sports, we’re pro-profit,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-CEO, at an investor conference late last year.

Despite that sentiment, Netflix has remained under close watch as a potential bidder for rights by many leagues as they look to navigate a media landscape facing unprecedented disruption. The company has also looked into outright acquisitions of sports entities such as the Premier Lacrosse League.

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