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Netflix: ‘No Core Change’ in Our Live Sports Strategy

“We’re having a big impact on sports through the thing we’re most great at, which is the drama.”

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Netflix Logo
Courtesy: Netflix

Although it has long been rumored that Netflix could look to explore live sports rights, the company’s co-chief executive officer feels that its strategy has not changed. The company is on the verge of hosting The Netflix Cup at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas, Nev., marking the first live sporting event being broadcast by the over-the-top (OTT) streaming service. It will feature four Formula 1 drivers – Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz – and four PGA Tour players – Rickie Fowler, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas – all competing in a golf tournament mere days before the first ever Las Vegas F1 Grand Prix.

“We are in the sports business, but we’re in the part of the sports business that we bring the most value to, which is the drama of sport,” Ted Sarandos said on Wednesday. “We’re having a big impact on sports through the thing we’re most great at, which is the drama.”

Netflix has released various sports documentaries and series over the last several years that have drawn wide swaths of viewership, including Formula 1: Drive to Survive; Full Swing; Break Point; Beckham; and Quarterback among others. As the company embarks on a new project, it hopes to be able to continue to popularize Formula 1: Drive to Survive and Full Swing, both of which are on the precipice of new seasons, along with its broad sports portfolio.

“We love to see how our sports series have brought increased fandom to sports leagues and competitions all over the world,” Gabe Spitzer, Netflix vice president of nonfiction sports, said in a statement. “The Netflix Cup will take that energy to the next level with global stars from two popular hits competing in our first-ever live sports event.”

With media rights for the National Basketball Association two seasons away from expiring, reports have suggested that the league could look to adopt a hybrid structure between linear television and digital platforms. Apple and Amazon are reportedly interested in negotiating with the league once they are able.

Moreover, current rightsholders in The Walt Disney Company (ABC/ESPN/ESPN+) and Warner Bros. Discovery (TNT/TBS/Max) could look to diminish the number of games they carry. While it has long been rumored that Netflix could explore a bid for media rights, Sarandos knows that the company will continue the course of action it has planned to assimilate into the business.

“I think about it as a great way of extending those great drama of sport brands that we’ve created,” Sarandos said, “but [there is] no core change in our live sports strategy or licensing live sports.”

There are similarities between the forthcoming presentation of The Netflix Cup and the Warner Bros. Discovery event, The Match, accentuated through the professional athletes and celebrities that participate across these competitions. Netflix will not be required to pay an extravagant rights fee for the event and could be a harbinger of things to come for the company should it prove successful.

“We are investing heavily in live capabilities,” Sarandos said, “so as demand grows for that and we find different ways that the live-ness can be part of the creative storytelling, we want to be able to do that at a big scale.”

The event is sanctioned by both Formula 1 and the PGA Tour and will be produced by Excel Sports Management, BZ Entertainment and Full Day Productions. Netflix will begin its live stream of all the action on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. EST/3 p.m. PST.

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John Dickinson Exits 95.7 The Game

“The longtime Bay Area sports radio reporter and host announced his departure on social media.”

Jordan Bondurant

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A voice familiar to Bay Area sports fans will no longer be heard on 95.7 The Game. Reporter John Dickinson announced on Monday that it was his last day at the station.

Dickinson posted a note on X on Monday expressing his gratitude for getting to be at 95.7 The Game for well over a decade covering sports.

“Who would have thought I’d have been fortunate enough to cover two World Series or three Super Bowls or SIX NBA Finals?” Dickinson wrote. “They even let me pretend to be a hockey reporter during the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Through the countless hours of radio shows and update shifts, and the long days and nights of traveling to cover Warriors and 49ers games all across the country, it’s been a pleasure to interact with some of the most passionate and knowledgeable (and sometime neurotic) fans in sports.”

He continued that he’s thankful for the chance to develop such great relationships with other reporters on the various Bay Area pro sports beats. Dickinson announced that he’s excited for what’s next.

According to sources, that next opportunity will be with KNBR.

“Grateful for the friendships that have blossomed with co-workers and other reporters along all the great beats in the Bay Area,” he wrote. “From my early days almost exclusively on the Raiders/Warriors/Giants to now primarily the 49ers/Warriors. Beyond excited for what’s next, but that’s tomorrow’s news.”

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Rob Stone: Big Noon Kickoff ‘A Toddler But Not in Our Crib Anymore’

The college football pregame show is about to finish its 5th season competing with ESPN’s College GameDay.

Jordan Bondurant

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A photo of the Big Noon Kickoff crew
(Photo: FOX Sports)

FOX is about to put a bow on its fifth season of Big Noon Kickoff, and even though ESPN’s College GameDay continues to lead in viewership, FOX isn’t taking its foot off the pedal.

Big Noon Kickoff averaged 1.02 million viewers through the first 10 weeks of the 2023 season according to reporting from Sports Business Journal. That figure was up from the 997,000 viewer average last year, the first year FOX sent its college football pregame show on the road for the entire regular season.

The show has seen its biggest growth in the final hour leading into FOX’s Big Noon Saturday game of the week broadcast. The 11 a.m. hour is averaging over 1.4 million viewers during that window through nine weeks.

FOX has seemed to master creating its own party atmosphere for the on-campus, on-location live show hosted by Rob Stone. Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart, Mark Ingram, and Urban Meyer fill out the desk, with Bruce Feldman and Chris “The Bear” Fallica contributing throughout the course of the morning.

Stone said the show continues to improve and gain momentum. It’s clear the program is on an upward trajectory.

“We’re a toddler, but we’re not in our crib anymore,” Stone said. “We’re demanding a king-sized bed.”

“It’s just a testament to everyone at Fox believing in what we can make this,” Leinart added. “And then also the guys up here and everybody part of this crew — in front of the camera and behind the camera — everybody makes the show go.”

The show obviously wants to eventually overtake GameDay as the most popular college football pregame show in the country, but many elements pull from the formula ESPN has used to make GameDay what it is. Imitation is the most honest form of flattery in Quinn’s eyes, who said that the big difference between what viewers get on FOX is the focus funneling into the noon game of the week.

“Obviously, if you’re gonna start out with the idea to do a college football pregame show, you take a lot of things [GameDay has] done because they’ve been successful,” Quinn said. “What we’re trying to do is taking the tailgate — that party and that atmosphere inside the stadium right before the game — right to kick.”

“The vast majority of our games are that,” the Big Noon Kickoff host added. “So hopefully when you’re watching you get more of the intensity wrapping up to like, here it is, here are the two teams. Boom. Gus and Joel, take it away.”

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NBC Sports Trialing Paul McGinley as Lead Golf Analyst This Weekend

McGinley will get the opportunity to helm the role held by Paul Azinger before his exit earlier this month.

Jordan Bondurant

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NBC Sports

When the Hero World Challenge tees off later this week in The Bahamas, NBC Sports will reportedly be auditioning its next PGA Tour lead analyst in Paul McGinley.

The Irish Independent on Monday reported that McGinley, a Ryder Cup champion for Europe who contributes analysis to both Sky Sports and Golf Channel, will get to test out doing play-by-play analysis alongside Dan Hicks.

NBC is going to be hiring a new lead analyst after the departure of Paul Azinger following October’s Ryder Cup. The network’s PGA Tour broadcast schedule for 2024 doesn’t begin in earnest until February.

It’s believed that if McGinley gets the lead analyst nod, he will continue to honor his obligations to Sky and Golf Channel under the Comcast banner.

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