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Report: Netflix makes moves for sports streaming rights, including ATP and WTA tennis

Streaming service has previously dismissed live sports rights as too expensive and fragmented.

9 November 2022 Steve McCaskill

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  • Netflix reportedly made bid for ATP in the UK and is considering WTA move
  • Ownership is also said to be on the cards in order to achieve global scale

Netflix is considering a significant strategic U-turn by investing in live sports rights for its streaming platform, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US newspaper says Netflix recently bid for the rights to the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour in several European markets, including France and the UK, before withdrawing from the race, and is considering a move for the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour in the UK.

Netflix has previously dismissed the idea of purchasing sports rights, believing them to be too expensive, fragmented, and having too short a lifespan to be of significant value. It has also traditionally preferred to own content it can release on a global scale.

However, falling subscriber numbers mean the company is re-considering its stance, and is said to be looking at lower-profile sports events that would not command a significant premium.

It believes the reach of its platform means it can elevate such properties into a global phenomenon, emulating some of the success it has achieved with non-live sporting content such as the Formula One docu-series Drive to Survive and 2020’s The Last Dance.

Netflix is also said to be considering an acquisition of the World Surf League (WSL), a move which would give it both ownership and global rights.

Netflix has been contacted for comment.

SportsPro says…

Netflix’s impact on the world of broadcasting cannot be underestimated. Its simple, flexible, affordable subscription model fundamentally challenged the idea that access to premium content required dedicated equipment, a lengthy contract, and significant expense.

The company has remained the standard-bearer for the streaming revolution, leveraging its economies of scale to invest billions in content it can push out to subscribers around the world. Unlike rivals Disney or Amazon, it has never seen the need for sport.

However, sport is capable of attracting an entirely new audience that cannot be reached with The Crown or The Witcher. A combination of sport and entertainment will also strengthen Netflix’s position as a household essential and reduce churn.

Lower profile rights are unlikely to attract many new subscribers but if the reported interest amounts to anything concrete, it will be fascinating to see whether Netflix can create a ‘hit’ in the same way it has contributed to the recent surge in interest of Formula One.

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