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Netflix reportedly looking at following rivals into live sports to broaden offering

Netflix’s Formula 1 docuseries Drive to Survive

Netflix has been exploring a potential move into live sports as it looks to broaden its content offering, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

In recent months, the streaming giant has made bids on certain tennis rights, including the ATP tennis tour for some European countries such as France and the UK, but it ultimately dropped out of the running.

Earlier this year, Netflix bid on the live streaming rights to Formula 1 in the US but ultimately lost out to Disney-owned ESPN, according to the WSJ.

In addition, the US-based publication said Netflix has been taking a look at acquiring the rights to the World Surf League and cycling competitions.

For years, some pundits and analysts have argued that Netflix should introduce live sports in order to grow its subscriber base and reduce churn. However, Netflix execs have opposed the move publicly.

Many of its streaming rivals have started to make sizeable investments in sports rights, including Amazon Prime Video, which acquired the exclusive rights to the NFL’s Thursday night games in a multi-year deal pegged at around US$1bn annually.

Apple TV+ also has a streaming deal with Major League Baseball. Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, Paramount and Fox already have significant live-sport offerings.

While there are no guarantees that such a move will materialise, the recent introduction of Netflix’s AVoD tier would suggest that live sports might not be far behind. Its presence on the platform would also likely be seen as attractive to brands and advertisers.

When asked about the prospect of Netflix looking at live sports during an investor call in April, co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos said: “We’re not quite so sure that you can add the big profit stream by adding sports.”

He added that the streamer was interested in “sports-adjacent programming” such as its popular Formula 1 docuseries Drive to Survive. It is also preparing a docuseries that goes behind the scenes in the tennis world.

“I’m not saying we never would do sports, but we would have to see a path to growing a big revenue stream and a big profit stream with it,” Sarandos said at the time.

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