Netflix Opens the Door to Live Sports

    • Netflix has shunned live sports throughout its history, but could potentially bid on U.S. Formula One rights when they expire next year.
    • Its 'Drive to Survive' docuseries has been a massive success.

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When it comes to sports, Netflix has been steadfast in producing documentaries, but not live content or prerecorded games. 

However, CEO Reed Hastings could make an exception for a single property: Formula 1.

“A few years ago, the rights to Formula 1 were sold. At that time, we were not among the bidders — today we would think about it,” Hastings told Der Spiegel.

Netflix docuseries “Drive to Survive” has been largely credited for F1’s 39% growth in viewership from 2019 to 2021. The show is currently filming its fourth season.

  • ESPN holds U.S. broadcasting rights to F1 through 2022. F1 will race in Austin in October and add a stop in Miami in 2022. ESPN hopes to re-up on a long-term deal.
  • Sky Sports struck a deal to air F1 in the U.K. from 2019 to 2024 for $1.37 billion. Canal+ holds rights in France through 2024.
  • F1 has discussed a broadcasting deal with Amazon.

To stream any other live sport, Hastings says Netflix would require a level of exclusivity that leagues don’t generally offer.

“We don’t own the Bundesliga, they can make deals with whoever they want,” he explained. “But that kind of control would be a prerequisite for us to be able to offer our customers a safe deal.”

The popularity of “Drive to Survive” and Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” has spurred numerous other sports docuseries, including upcoming Netflix-produced series on NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace and the PGA Tour, and a recently released film about former F1 champ Michael Schumacher.