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On-demand is better than live sports for Netflix despite Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo efforts

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By Seb Joseph, News editor

April 19, 2016 | 4 min read

Live sports won’t be coming to Netflix anytime soon, with the streaming service keen to further expand its lineup of original content.

Netflix

Rumours of a potential move to combat traditional broadcasts have swirled around the media business for some time, and only intensified in recent weeks given the moves made by Facebook Live, Twitter and Yahoo. While Netflix executives refuse to never say never when it comes to prospective bids for sports rights, it’s adamant that it does not represent enough value at the moment to justify investment.

“I think it’s great [that other companies] are doing it [live sports]. It’s about a further expansion of internet television to include live. We don’t have to do everything to be part of that expansion,” Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix on a response to a question on the company’s quarterly earnings call yesterday evening (18 April).

His comments refer to the early moves by Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo into showing live sports. Since the start of the month, all three have announced deals and initiatives designed to test out whether their infrastructures can handle the strain of live streaming and more importantly whether it’s something people will stay within their eco-systems to watch.

For Netflix, live isn’t so much of a priority as it focuses the bulk of its expansion around original content such as ‘The Queen’. That said, its decision to fund ‘Chelsea’, a talk show hosted by comedian Chelsea Handler to be shown three-times a week is as close as a traditional appointment to view TV it has got.

“So ‘Chelsea’ is near live in that we’re going to be putting it up to our subscribers just a couple of hours ater it’s recorded live in front o an audience,” explained Sarandos. “There’s not a technological reason we wouldn’t wat to go out to live. But you should think about our brand proposition is very much about on-demand. So to the extent that watching live would bring a tonne of value to it.”

Building more programing like ‘Chelsea’ that (to some extent) chimes with Netflix’s plan to expand its news coverage. The streaming business will be hoping a wider breadth of content can spark more subscribers after it predicted weaker-than-expected growth. It expects to add 0.5 million in the US and 2 million internationally, which are less than the analysts’ estimates of 505,000 and 3.45 million respectively.

That forecast happened just hours after Amazon revealed it will offer Prime Video as a standalone service outside of the wider Prime package.

On the same earnings call, Netflix founder and chief executive Reed Hastings attempted to downplay the threat of Amazon as well as the emergence of other competitors.

“Hulu is doing some great work. Amazon is, HBO, Showtime. There are so many competitors, and everyone is working hard to build the best content,” he continued.

“And so, we're seeing growth in the overall Internet TV market. Of course, that's displacing linear TV, and it's natural that everybody is coming in as they realize that the future is Internet TV. And in terms of our shows, we're very excited about what we're doing. Not only are we expanding the number of original series we're doing, but we're also expanding into original movies.”

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