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Why Netflix has joined Apple, Amazon, Disney and other streamers in the battle for live sport


“Without a doubt, sports is the next battleground for streamers, especially in the US.”

Netflix continues its push into streaming sports with Announcing that it will show two NFL games on Christmas Daya move that changed the dial and highlighted how streamers were targeting live sports as a way to retain subscribers.

Which NFL The deal follows news that Netflix has paid $5bn (£4bn) to broadcast Raw, WWE’s flagship weekly wrestling show, for 10 years, starting next January.

And it’s not just Netflix that is busy in this area.

In this increasingly crowded field, Apple is close to reaching an agreement FIFA To showcase next summer’s inaugural expanded Club World Cup in the US, Sky Sports in the UK is rolling out a new streaming service that will show up to 100 live events simultaneously, and Amazon Prime is looking to NBA It will be broadcast on 17 Champions League games in 2024-25, while Walt Disney Co.-owned ESPN is teaming up with Fox Corp and Warner Bros. on a new service called Venu Sports that will launch later this year.

So, why has live sport suddenly become so attractive, what has changed and what’s next as streamers look to get a slice of the action?

Why Netflix has joined Apple, Amazon, Disney and other streamers in the battle for live sport


In 2024, Netflix will show two NFL games on Christmas Day. (Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

To date, Netflix has focused more on sports-related documentaries — most notably its popular Drive To Survive series — than on actual live events, but it has begun to delve into the latter recently with one-off events like the Netflix Cup, which includes Formula 1 racers and players. Professional golf and Netflix Slam tennis.

She then signed a lucrative deal in January to run WWE’s Raw show for a decade, and will broadcast a boxing match between former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and YouTuber Jake Paul on July 20.

However, their first deal to show NFL games, one of the prized assets in the world of US radio broadcasting, seemed particularly significant in that it was a break with the past.

“Last year, we decided to make a big bet on streaming — tapping into a massive fan base across comedy, reality TV, sports, and more,” says Bela Bajaria, chief content officer at Netflix. “There are no annual live events, sporting or otherwise, that can compare to the audiences that NFL football attracts.”

Why Netflix has joined Apple, Amazon, Disney and other streamers in the battle for live sport


(Jeff Spicer – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

David Murray, a sports rights consultant, explained that Netflix’s move came because subscriber numbers were steady and live sports were a way to target new audiences.

“Netflix started out doing no sports, then they started doing sports documentaries like Drive To Survive, but the underlying trend is that subscriber numbers are not going up,” he says. “Where live sports can be really valuable is providing regular content that people want to watch.” .Sport provides for the public, and creates uncertainty, so it makes a lot of sense – but it means changing their business models very significantly and the sums involved are likely to be very huge.

“Netflix is ​​just dipping its toes in the water at this point. You could argue that Christmas Day is just a marketing tool to get people to subscribe to Netflix over Christmas, because it will potentially bring in a different type of audience. Whether it will open the floodgates is really interesting.” “If it gets serious, it could snowball, but we’re not there yet.”

Why Netflix has joined Apple, Amazon, Disney and other streamers in the battle for live sport


(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Jack Genovese, a sports rights expert and director of research at Ampere Analysis, agrees that the NFL deal was groundbreaking for Netflix because, unlike WWE, it is neither scripted nor predictable. It also showed how the company’s strategy has changed, with greater importance now placed on engagement.

“For many years, the focus at Netflix has been on subscribers, but the time spent watching content is now much more important,” he said. “That’s why sports can be huge. That’s why the best-kept secret in the industry is that they will invest in the actual sports rights.

For Netflix, as with other streaming giants, original sports documentaries have been its primary focus in driving subscriptions, but with that space increasingly saturated, showing live matches offers a way to stand out from the pack and offer something extra, he said.

He added: “For some established streaming platforms, it may be a single game or a limited package that suits their interests better rather than a large chunk of the rights. I wouldn’t rule out Netflix trying to get in on the action when it comes to Premier League In the future.”

It also highlighted the risk of alienating viewers who may feel frustrated by having to keep subscribing to different platforms to fully watch their favorite team or sport.

Paolo Pescatore, media and technology analyst at PP Foresight, agrees there is a delicate balance to keep sports viewers tuned in while streamers follow live events. With the NFL now also on Netflix, that means fans will need seven different services to watch all of its games.

“The Netflix NFL deal is interesting,” Pescatore says. “They’ve done a great job with the quarterback (documentary) series but clearly the NFL needs to be careful not to upset the status quo too much, given the guaranteed revenue from their traditional deals. It’s a springboard for what’s to come. It ultimately leads to fragmentation rights, but this may not always be a good thing for the consumer, as we have seen in the past.

“Without a doubt, sports is the next battleground among streamers, especially in the US,” he adds. “Sports is one of the few genres that actually drives people to want to watch something live and tune in at a specific time and day of the week.” The Challenge What’s up against streamers is that their business models aren’t geared towards live sports – if they’re really serious about sports, it’s a long-term commitment.


Aside from the Netflix NFL deal, there are plenty of other competitions going on in this crowded market.

As of 2024, Ampere Analysis estimates the total amount spent by streaming platforms on sports rights at $9.8bn (£7.72m).

Apple is close to a $1 billion deal with FIFA for the rights to showcase its new products The Club World Cup, which will feature 32 teams as part of the revamped tournament. It is scheduled to be played from June 15 to July 13 next year in the United States

If that happens, as expected, it will be Apple’s latest move into live sports. That process began in 2022, when it secured a deal to show Major League Baseball (MLB) over seven years before reaching an agreement that same year to show football League As part of a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal. The latter was the first time a major American league collaborated with a technology company.

Why Netflix has joined Apple, Amazon, Disney and other streamers in the battle for live sport


(Maddy Meyer/Getty Images)

For Murray, Apple is the company to watch, given its vast wealth and shift into services. “Apple is a company that could achieve great success at some point,” he says. “There’s talk of a Club World Cup, and Apple wants to have that. Apple wants global rights, and that’s what suits them best.

“The obvious thing is the Premier League. It will cost a lot of money. They didn’t make an offer last time, and that’s because the Premier League is still in the process of preparing it. For me, a joint venture between Apple and the Premier League makes a lot of sense – whether it’s in The next (bidding round), or at the following time.”

Genovese said Apple paying for the rights to the FIFA Club World Cup would represent a big bet by the company.

“As an event, yeah it looks cool, but I wonder if people whose teams aren’t in the event will sign up for an Apple TV to watch it,” he says. “How many people are actually going to say, ‘Yes, I’ll sign up for this month to watch this event?’” It will certainly take a significant marketing effort.

Elsewhere, Disney+ will roll out live sports from ESPN on the streaming service to US subscribers next year, while February saw ESPN, Fox Corp and Warner Bros announce Venu Sports, a new sports streaming platform that will launch in the fall. Between them, these three companies own about 55 percent of the rights to American sports, including the FIFA World Cup. Formula 1NFL, NBA and MLB.

Live sports have already moved to streaming services.

For example, Peacock, which is owned by NBC, has a deal with the English Premier League; YouTube acquired the rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket package in 2022, paying $14 billion for a seven-year contract; While Amazon has a 10-year agreement with the NFL to broadcast 15 Thursday Night Football games.

Why Netflix has joined Apple, Amazon, Disney and other streamers in the battle for live sport


(Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

Earlier this year, Amazon agreed to invest $115m (£90m) in Diamond Sports Group, the regional sports operator of 37 teams across MLB and ice hockey. NHL And the NBA, as part of the rescue package. It also has the framework of a deal in place to show a large number of NBA games (along with ESPN), as a nine-year deal involving ESPN and TNT nears its end. These contracts expire after the 2024-25 season.

Next season, Amazon will show 17 live Champions League matches – with the first selection on Tuesday night – while TNT Sports will show a further 533 matches, for the three seasons until 2027. However, it will no longer broadcast Premier League matches from 2025. 26, having made 20 appearances of the season in two spells in December during the current cycle.

DAZN, the streaming service launched by billionaire Sir Len Blavatnik, may offer a cautionary tale. The company lost more than $1 billion in 2022 after failing to secure the rights to English football.

Meanwhile, Sky, owned by Comcast, announced… Sky Sports+’s new streaming service It will be launched in August to try to boost the subscriber base. This will see Sky show up to 100 events across a range of sports on the new service, while it will broadcast every match from English as a foreign language on the opening weekend of next season. Sky hopes to feature all 72 EFL teams at least 20 times a season.

The Premier League has, so far, remained loyal to Sky, largely because it pays very good money for domestic rights in the UK. In the most recent auction, in December last year, Sky and TNT Sports agreed a record £6.7 billion ($8.5 billion) deal to broadcast the Premier League until the end of the 2028-29 season. Sky Sports will also show up to 44 Women’s Super League matches in the 2024-25 season.

However, as Netflix, the biggest monster in the streaming world, finally enters the world of live sports, its competitors will be watching with keen interest and planning carefully. they next step.

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(Top image: Perry Knotts/Getty Images)



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