Rafael Henrique | Light rocket | Getty Images
Whether streaming or traditional television: sport ensures that the audience keeps coming back to the screens – and Netflix is working on bringing more into the game.
After a few quarters of stagnation, Netflix is back to gaining more subscribers through new business models like a cheaper, ad-supported plan and cracking down on password sharing. Sport will certainly play a role in this.
The streamer is also finally taking a step towards live sports.
Netflix announced It would livestream “The Netflix Cup,” a match between athletes who appeared in the Formula 1 documentaries and the golf series “Full Swing.” To kick off the week of the Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix, athletes will compete against each other in a match play tournament in Las Vegas.
Even as customers move away from traditional television, from cable TV bundles to broadcast, those who stick around often do so for the live sports broadcasts.
That was evident in September, when the return of the National Football League and college football seasons boosted both broadcast and cable TV viewership. Broadcast sports viewership increased 360%, compared to 222% in the same period last year, while cable television saw a nearly 25% increase in sports viewership Data by Nielsen.
This came as Disney’s ESPN carried the top 11 cable TV shows in September, while streaming viewership fell for the second straight month – albeit by less than 2% as traditional television took a larger share.
Streamers are increasingly adding sports programming. Warner Bros. Discovery‘s Max began airing live sports earlier this month and plans to begin charging for the additional streaming tier early next year. ESPN has its ESPN+ option, and Disney executives have said it’s a question of when, not whether, the cable TV channel will be available via direct-to-consumer streaming. NBCUniversal’s Peacock is seeing growth driven in large part by live sports.
When Netflix reported its results on Wednesday, the company cited its “great success” with sports programming, which includes a mix of documentaries such as “Quarterback,” about a group of NFL quarterbacks heading into the new season, and “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” were “which gained such a large following that it boosted the sport itself.
Netflix’s foray into advertising is also part of the mix. The company announced Wednesday that T-Mobile and Nespresso will be among the sponsors of its first-ever live sporting event.
It’s been a gradual transition towards both sports and live streaming – Netflix experienced technical problems when it aired the finale of the reality show “Love is Blind” earlier this year – but the streamer seems ready to take the step make.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC and CNBC.
Don’t miss these CNBC PRO stories: