Netflix changes stance on sports streaming with Christmas NFL games

Netflix, the largest streaming platform out there, has always claimed that it didn’t want to show big sports on its service. Now, though, it’s nearing a deal to stream two games of the prestigious NFL on Christmas Day.

Speaking in December 2022 at the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York, Ted Sarandos, co-chief executive officer of Netflix, dismissed the idea of streaming prestigious sports live on the platform.

In a reminder that Netflix is a content production company as opposed to being a live, televised service provider, Sarandos said Netflix didn’t see a “profit path to renting big sports.”

However, Sarandos also uttered the three important words: “Never say never.” Indeed, over the past year and a half, Netflix has been streaming more and more live events – mostly stand-up specials.

The streaming giant has also signed a $5 billion deal to acquire rights to broadcast live wrestling. The hope is that wrestling will deliver millions of viewers, and that cannot be unattractive to advertisers.

Indeed, the fact that Netflix didn’t previously have ads but now offers a cheaper ad-based plan has probably changed the calculations inside the streamer.

The “wait and see” approach might have already been discarded because if you want to sell more ads you show live sports. Lo and behold – according to Puck, Netflix is close to a deal to livestream two National Football League (NFL) games on Christmas Day this year.

The NFL is, of course, the most popular major sports league in the US, regularly boasting tens of millions of viewers, especially on special occasions such as the Super Bowl and, obviously, Christmas.

The deal isn’t finalized, and it’s not yet known how much Netflix is paying for the right to show the two games. The NFL isn’t commenting either.

Nevertheless, it would seem that Netflix has solved, or is confident in solving, one of the biggest issues of livestreaming – a smooth viewing experience during such peak usage periods. The streamer has invested in next-generation technologies for better real-time video delivery.

According to experts, Netflix – and other platforms already streaming live sports – also need to focus more on minimizing latency because hearing your neighbor cheer a goal or a touchdown while you’re still half a minute behind, for example, is truly annoying.

More details are expected very soon as the NFL is planning to release its upcoming schedule on May 15th. Incidentally, this is the day Netflix will host its “upfront” event for advertisers as well – it looks like the platform might have some good news for them.