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Netflix Head Says ‘Never Say Never’ on Sports, But Not A Lot of Natural Synergies

Michael King

During its 2Q 2021 Investor Presentation, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos reiterated the company’s position regarding televising sports in light of the increasing presence of professional sports on streaming platforms.

“Our fundamental product is on-demand and advertising-free, while sports is live and packed with advertising — so there’s not a lot of natural synergies in that way, except that it happens on television,” Sarandos said.

While there are some significant differences between sports broadcasting and Netflix’s model, he does not leave any door closed either.

“I’m not saying ‘Never say never’ on sports; it’s more of ‘What’s the best use of $10 billion?” Sarandos said.

To clairify his position, Sarandos explained further.

“I think that’s what it’s going to cost to invest meaningfully in big-league sports,” he said. “And that pricing has only gone up since I started saying that.”

In comparison, Amazon has spent $1 billion for the exclusive rights to carry the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package beginning in 2022. The remainder of the league’s media rights — including streaming — runs up to $100 billion.

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Sarandos was asked about Netflix carrying sports outside of the main American big-league sports leagues.

He pointed out that Netflix has recently done well with sports documentaries that included last year’s Michael Jordan miniseries, The Last Dance, as well as the recently released Naomi Osaka, focusing on the tennis champion. In addition, Sarandos said, without the rights to content, Netflix does a “fantastic job with sports-adjacent content as long as the storytelling is great.”

Sarandos said that there was room for expansion into ticket and merchandise sales potentially, without worrying about the overhead of the rights.

“We can apply that same kind of storytelling to the personalities behind those sports and the drama that happens off-camera,” he said. “And that can not only attract deep fans, but bring new fans to the sport.”

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