Skip to content

Will We See Netflix Acquire Sports Broadcasting Rights Soon?

It’s hard to believe that Netflix was founded back in 1997. With all the biggest shows and movies having streamed in the last decade – The Crown (2016), Stranger Things (2016), Don’t Look Up (2021) – it’s easy to think that Netflix’s conception coincided with the downfall of Blockbuster, which occurred in 2014.

But Netflix has had many lives. In the very beginning, it was inspired by the success of Amazon, with creators Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings entering the home-video sales and rental industry to ship DVDs – then a new invention – to customers’ homes.

In 2007, the company then launched the streaming media model, introducing 1,000 films to stream on-demand alongside the 70,000 films that were available on DVD. After seeing success in the US and overseas, the company was then able to develop their own original programming, with House Of Cards becoming the first Netflix original television series in 2013. 

Since that point, Netflix has been growing from strength to strength and, in many ways, has been hurtling toward the next milestone: sports.

Sports And The Online World

Discussion about Netflix acquiring sports broadcasting rights has been on subscribers’ lips for a good few years now. Indeed, the world of sports has been transitioning steadily into the online space. 

In April 2017, Amazon acquired the rights to stream NFL’s Thursday Night Football and then continued to seal the rights to other tournaments, such as the US Tennis Open and the Rugby Union Autumn Nations Series. 

This was a roaring success with fans, and in recent years, events like NFL’s Thursday Night Football have been raking in as many as 15.3 million viewers. 

For the viewers, specifically, sports streaming is another venture in which they can both view live sports games and bet on them too – perhaps on the same phone if they choose to! Online betting and gaming platform LeoVegas is one of those that has catapulted into the mainstream with the online market as a whole soaring to an $83.65 billion valuation last year. Indeed, every aspect of the sporting scene is becoming more intrinsic to the online world, so it’s really a question of “when” not “if” Netflix will eventually join the party. 

The Question Of Netflix And Sports

Late last year, it was reported that Netflix bid for various sports rights, including the ATP and WTA Tours. It already hosts several sporting documentaries on the platform, such as The Last Dance and Formula 1: Drive To Survive, but this was its first attempt to dabble in the live sports streaming game. 

It’s fair to say that it didn’t go too well. According to Netflix executives, the plan was to buy lower-profile leagues in order to avoid the costs of sports rights bidding. As well as this, streaming live, low-profile sports would give those sports a chance to boost into franchises, which should be welcomed by administrators and create a few stepping stones in further sporting negotiations. But, for reasons not known, Netflix pulled out. 

In December 2022, co-chief executive officer of Netflix, Ted Sarandos, stated that Netflix doesn’t have a profitable path to renting big sports. In his words, Netflix was not “anti-sports” but “pro-profit”,and this is true. Netflix could continue its success with shows like Squid Game or the highly anticipated Joey Ramone biopic starring Pete Davidson.

What Does The Future Hold?

As mentioned, however, this is more a question of “when” than “if”. Despite Sarandos’ sentiments, there is again talk about Netflix hosting a celebrity golf event, which could be seen as a taster to see how subscribers will react. 

But Netflix will have to make the move eventually. With new streaming services popping up all over the internet, including Disney+, Hulu, Apple TV, and Peacock — and with these streaming services absorbing regular viewership of television networks — it’s likely that more sporting broadcast rights will be snapped up by streaming services as the highest bidders. When that happens, there will be a noticeable hole in Netflix’s offer to subscribers. 

They would need to then plug this hole to remain relevant and avoid seeing their subscribers jump ship. With this in mind, we’d wager that it’s likely Netflix will be hosting its first live sports event sometime in the next five years or so.