Netflix’s first live-streamed sporting event could be coming this fall. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is in talks to create a new, celebrity-driven golf tournament in Las Vegas that would include some of the stars of other sports content on the service like Drive to Survive and Full Swing. (Disclosure: Vox Media Studios produced Full Swing, and The Verge recently produced a series with Netflix.)
The talks are apparently early, but a custom, talent-driven golf tournament makes perfect sense as Netflix’s first foray into sports streaming. Streaming live sports is high-stakes, hard, and expensive, and the deals for big-name events are ever more cutthroat. (Netflix was reportedly trying to wrest Formula 1 coverage away from ESPN, but failed to do so.) There’s a reason that ESPN’s first-ever broadcast was of a slow-pitch softball game, and that Yahoo broadcast a London NFL game in the wee hours of the American morning before trying anything more complicated. And even those more conservative attempts don’t always go well.
Netflix’s own live-streaming reputation isn’t exactly sterling, either. In April, its Love is Blind live reunion show was such a spectacular failure that the service canceled the live aspect of the show altogether. It did, however, manage to stream a Chris Rock comedy special without any hiccups.
Netflix has been interested in live content since at least 2022, and has signaled its interest in sports for years, but has always said it’s looking for the right moment to get in the game. So far, the company has invested heavily in documentaries, to great success: lots of people credit Drive to Survive with single-handedly making Formula 1 popular in the United States, and Full Swing and Break Point have been hits for golf and tennis as well. The company is even signed up to do an NFL version, called Quarterback, that is scheduled to drop this summer.
A one-off golf tournament could be a test case for Netflix — or a signal of strategy
A one-off golf tournament could be a test case for Netflix to prove to leagues and advertisers that it can handle more complex events. It could also be a signal of strategy: the company has shown it can use documentaries and behind-the-scenes content to make people care about sports they previously knew nothing about, so maybe Netflix’s sports strategy will be more underwater hockey than NHL hockey and more toe wrestling than WWE. They would give Netflix plenty of content to stream, and plenty of good intellectual property to make shows about. Don’t be surprised to see Netflix’s sports network look like Drive to Survive, but for every sport you can possibly imagine.