There seems to be a lot of focus on streaming live sports, but based on comments from Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, it appears the company plans to largely stay out of that game for the moment. “We really think that we can have a really strong offering for sports fans on Netflix without having to be part of the difficulty of the economic model of live sports licensing,” he said during the company’s second quarter earnings call on Wednesday.
That quote was the final part of a longer response about the company’s sports strategy. “We’re super excited about the success of our sports-adjacent programming,” he said, pointing to recent titles like Quarterback and Tour de France: Unchained. With the latter, he talked about how it did “exactly what we saw with Drive to Survive, which is introduce a brand new audience to a sport that’s been around for a really long time and [is] not very well understood. You do that through exceptional storytelling, not through the live-ness of the game.”
That strategy, Sarandos argued, lets Netflix “offer this wide variety of sports programming for sports fans that’s in-season year round” that leans on the company’s strengths in storytelling.
Sarandos also addressed the company’s upcoming first foray into live sports: a celebrity golf tournament in November. “We’re excited about that because it serves as a promotional vehicle for our sports brands like Full Swing and Drive to Survive,” he said. It’s probably a good thing that its first live sports event will be a low stakes play: while the live Chris Rock comedy special went off without a hitch, the planned Love Is Blind live reunion special was such a disaster that it had to be taped for on-demand viewing later.
Other big tech companies have made splashy live sports deals, like Google landing NFL Sunday Ticket and Apple launching a soccer streaming service with the MLS. While Netflix reportedly kicked the tires on F1 rights, based on Sarandos’ comments on Wednesday, it seems like Netflix might not chase huge live sports partnerships in the near term. Instead, you might want to get ready for a new documentary about a sport you didn’t even know existed.
(Disclosure: Vox Media Studios produced Full Swing, and The Verge recently produced a series with Netflix.)