- Netflix has previously dismissed sport as too expensive and fragmented
- Recent reports have linked streamer with tennis and surfing
Netflix co-chief executive and chief content officer Ted Sarandos has poured cold water on the idea that the streaming giant could acquire premium sports rights in a bid to drive growth.
Netflix is a notable outlier in the streaming space in that it does not use live sport as an acquisition tool, believing rights to be too expensive, short-lived and fragmented when compared to entertainment content it can offer at a global scale in perpetuity.
However, falling subscriber numbers and a lack of new markets to expand into have led to speculation that Netflix could reconsider its strategy.
However, speaking at the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York, Sarandos said the economics simply did not add app.
“We’ve not seen a profit path to renting big sports,” Sarandos is quoted as saying by Variety. “We’re not anti-sports, we’re just pro-profit.”
Rivals Amazon and Apple have used sport in a bid to drive sign ups, often as a loss leader. Meanwhile, more traditional media giants like Disney, NBC and Warner Bros Discovery believe that offering a wider array of programming, that includes both sport and entertainment, will achieve success.
While Sarandos declined to rule out a move into sport entirely, adding “never say never”, he stressed there was no need to invest in rights as an acquisition tool because it had no legacy business to migrate from and was further along in its path to profitability.
Accordingly, Netflix is adamant it can exist as a pure-play entertainment provider and that advertising and a new flexible pricing strategy will drive growth.
The company says word-of-mouth hit Squid Game was able to reach 160 million households without the need to follow the Super Bowl – a reference to the US broadcast tactic of premiering a new show immediately after the biggest television event of the year in a bid to drive audiences.
It’s unlikely that Netflix will get involved in a bidding war for the Premier League or the National Football League (NFL). But, despite these latest comments from Sarandos, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the company acquire lower profile rights or properties that will appeal to its engaged, youthful audience.
Netflix has achieved huge success with non-live sporting content such as the Formula One docuseries Drive to Survive and 2020’s The Last Dance, suggesting there is an appetite for sport among its user base.
One report has linked the company with a takeover for the World Surf League (WSL). Whether or not there is any truth to this suggestion, it would give Netflix ownership of a youth-focused, digitally native property that it could transform into a global hit using its unprecedented reach.
Of course, content is only part of the equation. Live streaming is fundamentally a very different proposition to video on demand (VOD). Just as well Netflix is testing such a capability with live stand-up comedy, then.