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Though it currently boasts one of the best sports docu-series on TV in the form of the inspirational football series Last Chance U, Netflix is about as far from synonymous with live sports programming as it can possibly get. Considering nothing Netflix streams to its customers is in-the-moment, it's not hard to grasp why sports haven't ever been the company's highest priority. But for anyone wondering if there's a specific reason for the glaring absence, Netflix exec Maria Ferreras offered a brief but telling explanation. In her words:
I think in terms of live sports, there's nothing we can do differently from a television broadcaster, so it doesn't add additional value. You can never say never, but there's no plans to go into that.
It sounds like Netflix is singing lost lines from an Annie Get Your Gun classic: "Anything you can do, I can do better, except for that sports thing, so we won't even try it out just yet." A patently Netflix-ian response, it is both boastful and humble in the same breath, accepting that the service currently can't currently find a way to improve upon the live-viewing sports experience that linear television provides, while also drawing attention to the fact that live sports is one of the only major forms of entertainment that Netflix hasn't found success with yet.
Maria Ferreras is Netflix's Vice President of Business Development EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa), so she's obviously got a good idea of what makes for good and bad business decisions within the company. And while it may be a good idea for Netflix to drop massive moolah on popular TV creators, it's clearly not in anyone's best interests to start whatever processes that would allow them to stream live sporting events. With its original programming, the streaming giant boasts exclusivity and content variety that appeals to global demographics, which only ticks some of the same boxes that live sports would. And so with the actual "sit down and watch a game" process not offering Netflix any distinct advantages over its competitors, the need for sports isn't a distraction.
The popularity of live contests, particularly NFL games and many sports' postseason match-ups, makes for a lot of different revenue streams. But while networks cough up exorbitant sums for NFL TV rights, the expectation is that the networks' money will be recuperated in part by lucrative deals with advertising companies. Meanwhile, Netflix makes its money through subscription fees, not advertiser fees, and multi-year NFL deals generally cost around the same as what Netflix annually borrows to fund its programming. Combine that with the company's lack of mainstream merchandising outside select shows like Stranger Things, and funding any sports content would be as much of a headache as trying to visually enhance it.
All that said, the future could very well see Netflix making some gigantic World Cup deal to provide streaming for the next tournament, which would probably also include producing new content centered on soccer and the many competing teams from around the world. Netflix could also possibly team up with one of the big networks to stream the Super Bowl, or one of several other limited-fashion scenarios like that. And then, of course, expect for Netflix to start creating its own exclusive sports and leagues.