It's safe to say that Formula 1 has never been more popular, and Netflix would like to get in on the action.
After bolstering the sport's standing abroad with its hit series Drive to Survive, the streaming service has (according to Business Insider (opens in a new tab)) joined a bidding war with rival broadcasters NBCUniversal and ESPN for the rights to broadcast F1 races from 2023.
The Disney-owned ESPN network has had the license to show F1 coverage in the United States since 2017, while Comcast-owned NBCUniversal did so for five years prior. The latter's UK arm, Sky, currently holds the rights to broadcast F1 in the UK and Ireland until 2024.
ESPN's US-only deal expires at the end of 2022, and Business Insider reports that Formula 1 bosses are seeking a new deal worth around €100m. The former reportedly submitted an initial offer of €70 million, while neither Netflix nor NBCUniversal have publicly disclosed the extent of their involvement in the negotiations.
In a statement provided to Business Insider, ESPN executive John Suchenski said: "We are aggressively pursuing the renewal; we believe we have a cast package and event presentation that cannot be matched in the industry... It has been a mutually beneficial relationship.
"Of course," he added, look at other options
Broadcast if you want to go faster
According to Business Insider sources, Netflix is one of those options. The streaming giant has reportedly been having talks with Formula 1 bosses for months, and Netflix bigwigs have had no qualms about securing exclusive rights to the sport.
In a 2021 interview with Der Spiegel (opens in a new tab), the company's co-CEO Ted Sarandos said: “A few years ago the rights to Formula 1 were sold. bidders. Today we would think about it.
Sarandos admitted during Netflix's first-quarter 2022 earnings call that he and other executives "should look at a way to build a big revenue stream and a big profit stream" through sports coverage, though the company recently admitted that it is "exploring" live streaming content suggests a genuine willingness to embrace such a business model change.
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In any case, Netflix's biggest rivals are already involved in sports broadcasting. Apple, for example, recently signed a deal to show Major League Baseball on Apple TV Plus and remains interested in getting the rights to certain NFL shows.
Amazon's Prime Video service currently airs the NFL's Thursday night football series, as well as a variety of worldwide Premier League soccer and tennis coverage, while Disney maintains a foothold in the sport through via ESPN and Hulu.
Even NBCUniversal's Peacock service, which launched in 2020, has the rights to broadcast some MLB games during the season.
The thing is, streaming sports could be an effective (if dramatic) way for Netflix to cap its subscriber drain.
In the new era of abundant choice and tighter budgets, customers choose their subscription packages based on value for money, and the ability to offer F1 coverage, whether in the US exclusively or in all regions, it would certainly improve Netflix's temperamental stock.