Netflix shakes up sports strategy after ‘Full Swing’ success

netflix executive speaks on stage

Netflix executives announced a surprising shift to their sports content strategy.

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Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives to massive media companies all the same.

And in this case, destiny has a name: The Netflix Cup.

On Tuesday morning, Netflix announced the creation of its first-ever live sports property, a one-time celebrity golf tournament featuring stars from the worlds of pro golf and Formula 1. The event, named the Netflix Cup, will air live from the Wynn Las Vegas beginning at 6 p.m. ET on November 14th, and will be produced by Full Day Productions, the company behind awards shows like the ESPYs, Oscars and NFL Honors.

If the event feels familiar, that’s because it is. The Netflix Cup represents the latest foray into a cookie-cutter style of athlete-celebrity made-for-TV event first popularized by The Match — a low-budget, high-audience option that sports broadcasters have increasingly flocked toward in recent years. Competitively, the Cup will feature four PGA Tour pros — Rickie Fowler, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas — competing in teams alongside fellow F1 stars (Alex Albon, Pierre Gasley, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris).

But truthfully, that’s not why the Cup is interesting to those around the sports TV industry. The Cup could be a carbon copy of the last iteration of The Match and it would still count as some of the biggest sports TV news to emerge in a long while — and that’s because of what it represents to the streaming giant hosting it, Netflix.

The Netflix Cup will be the streamer’s first-ever foray into live sports coverage, an area it has largely avoided even as live sports streaming has become a ubiquitous piece of the marketplace in recent years.

Despite a massive audience and considerable first-mover advantage in the streaming space, Netflix watched the sports streaming revolution mostly from the sidelines in the late-2010s to early-2020s — a move that surprised many market analysts. Live sports properties have long been seen as one of the most powerful trend-proof properties in the entertainment industry, guaranteeing viewers and subscribers for those who host them. Netflix’s decision to opt away from live sports, and live programming more broadly, indicated the company felt strongly enough about its 200-million-plus subscriber base to withstand any industry headwinds.

Those headwinds arrived in early 2022, around the time Netflix saw its stock plummet from more than $650 per share to less than $200 after concerns about its growth — and the growth of the streaming industry more broadly — spooked investors. The ensuing months resulted in sweeping changes across Netflix, including the departure of founder Reed Hastings, the installment of stricter password-sharing policies, and the first rumors that the streaming giant was poking around for untapped growth points, including live sports.

The months since then have only seen momentum grow for Netflix’s interest in live sports, particularly as two major Netflix sports docuseries — Drive to Survive and Full Swing — have become international hits. In the last 12 months, the company has been tied to several sports leagues — professional tennis and surfing among them — in conversations about broadcast rights, and rumors have continued to swirl about potential bids at future sports properties.

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The Netflix Cup represents only a proof-of-concept for the streamer, which helps to explain the characters selected for attendance. Netflix audiences are well-attuned to many of the names that will be gracing the screen come Nov. 14, the majority of which starred in Drive to Survive and Full Swing. Though the Cup marks a significant departure from those two shows, the broadcast will allow Netflix to test its technology for a full-scale live sports broadcast.

As of now, there are no public plans for Netflix to expand golf efforts beyond the Netflix Cup, and there also aren’t many opportunities to do so. The PGA Tour’s domestic streaming rights are locked up for the rest of the decade, while most of the other major championships have similar contracts in place. LIV Golf will see its agreement with the CW expire upon the end of the 2024 season, and is currently shopping the rights to its Friday coverage, but Netflix’s outstanding work with the PGA Tour would seem to preclude them from an agreement with LIV.

Full Swing, meanwhile, has just wrapped filming on its second season following professional golf. The premiere of that is expected on Netflix sometime in early 2024.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at