Netflix Reportedly Bidding for F1 Live-Streaming Rights

Netflix’s aversion to live sports could be ending.

The world’s top subscription streaming platform is reportedly bidding for the live streaming rights to Formula One auto racing currently held by Disney/ESPN. NBCUniversal and Amazon Studios are also in the mix of potential new suitors for the popular race car circuit.

Netflix helped create a new fanbase for F1 through its docuseries “F1: Drive to Survive,” which is currently filming its fifth season with series creator Box to Box Films.

F1, which is owned by Liberty Media, is reportedly looking for $100 million — five times what Disney/ESPN currently pays per year to broadcast — for the 2023 rights. Disney is offering $70 million, according to BusinessInsider, which first reported the news.

Notably, Liberty Media has thus far retained the F1 streaming rights, which it has tried to market through standalone F1 TV Pro at $80 per year. This would suggest that Netflix would have to bid high to secure those rights. Just the kind of live sports bidding war co-CEO Ted Sarandos has said in the past Netflix has no interest in entering.

But the streamer finds itself losing subscribers and investors following a disappointing fiscal quarter. With “Drive to Survive,” a hit with streamers, Netflix may be looking to throw caution to the wind.

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Amazon Prime Video Gearing Up for Formula One Racing?

Amazon Prime Video, unlike Netflix and Disney+, live-streams sports. The free SVOD component of the Prime membership e-commerce platform currently features the U.K.’s Premier League soccer and NFL Thursday Night Football. Now, media reports say the streamer is eyeing Formula One auto racing owned by Liberty Media.

The potential distribution agreement would see Prime Video streaming select races targeting the younger F1 fans accustomed to streaming entertainment rather than watching pay-TV.

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“[Amazon is] an incredibly important potential partner and an opportunity for us to expand and grow our business,” Chase Carey, CEO of F1, told the Financial Times. While Amazon has made no official comment on a possible deal, Comcast’s Sky satellite TV distributor currently pays about $250 million annually through 2024 to broadcast F1 races. The sport has myriad regional broadcast deals around the world.

Amazon current foray into motoring includes original series “The Grand Tour” featuring the cast from BBC’s “Top Gear.”

Carey said that with most broadcasters incorporating proprietary streaming services, Prime Video would make a perfect fit. The direct input on a deal from the former CEO of 21st Century Fox only extends until the end of the month when he turns over chief executive duties to Stefano Domenicali, boss at carmaker Lamborghini. Carey remains chairman of F1, which Liberty Media acquired for $8 billion in 2016.

But with the coronavirus pandemic causing havoc to big attendance events like F1 racing, Liberty has had to infuse $1.4 billion in the league this year just to keep the lights on.

Carey said transferring F1 to live streaming would take baby steps with a fan base accustomed to following the sport via pay-TV, including those “who probably are not quite accustomed to watching their major favorite sporting events on a digital platform.”

F1, like most professional sports leagues, launched its own SVOD platform in 2018. Having it directly available on Prime Video would open the platform up to more than 100 million Prime members. Netflix recently launched a documentary series on F1 called Drive to Survive.

“Now people want a 24/7 experience,” Mehul Kapadia, COO of Motorsport Network told FT. “[The question is] how can you make your fans feel like they’re in the driver’s seat? That’s how the potential of the sport can be unlocked more.”


Days of Thunder


$29.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Randy Quaid, Nicole Kidman, Michael Rooker, Cary Elwes, John C. Reilly, Fred Dalton Thompson.

Almost immediately upon its release in 1990, Days of Thunder was labeled by critics as a car racing version of Top Gun, a reputation that isn’t exactly unearned.

Days of Thunder shares the same production team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, the same director in Tony Scott, and also stars Tom Cruise, who plays another hotshot looking to fulfill his need for speed with reckless abandon.

In this case, Cruise’s character is named Cole Trickle, an Indy circuit washout looking to make a name for himself in NASCAR. He takes on the mentorship of a master pit crew chief played by Robert Duvall, but a devastating crash shakes his confidence.

Robert Towne’s screenplay (with Cruise sharing a story credit) throws not one but two rivals at Trickle. First is Michael Rooker’s Rowdy Burns, the top dog of the circuit whose career is cut short in the same wreck that impairs Cole. When they become fast friends due to shared misfortune, Rowdy asks Cole to take over his racing team, setting up the showdown with rival No. 2, another rookie driver named Russ Wheeler, played by Cary Elwes, whose blink-and-you’ll-miss-it introduction obscures a rise through the ranks so unexpectedly rapid that one wonders why the movie isn’t about him.

The requisite love interest, which like with Top Gun comes with professional complications, is Cole’s and Rowdy’s neurologist, played by Nicole Kidman, who was 22 at the time of filming lest anyone wish to question the likelihood of her character’s medical credentials. The swirling rumors of the day suggested Cruise became enamored with Kidman after seeing her in 1989’s Dead Calm and arranged for her to be in Days of Thunder so they could meet. When 1990 began he had been married to Mimi Rogers, but divorced her in February. Cruise and Kidman were married from December 1990, six months after Days of Thunder hit theaters, to 2001.

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For the most part, Days of Thunder comes across as a series of exciting racing scenes and establishing shots of NASCAR speedways strung together with a by-the-numbers plot and some perfunctory dialogue. Duvall is as good as he usually is, while Cole Trickle is such a stock character in the Tom Cruise mold that naming him is more a screenwriting formality than a necessity of the story.

This new edition of Days of Thunder is presented as both a standalone Blu-ray under the “Paramount Presents” label, as well as a 4K Ultra HD disc with digital copy. The 4K version doesn’t come with a separate Blu-ray Disc, which is something of a break from the industry norm of 4K/Blu-ray combo packs, so consumers will have to pick whether they want the higher-definition resolution of the 4K version or the fancy Paramount Presents slipcover with fold-out movie poster. The film looks great either way, particularly because the racing footage is so good.

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The new Days of Thunder Blu-ray seems to have avoided the fate of most of the other titles in the Paramount Presents line, which to this point has offered Blu-ray re-releases with most of the bonus materials from previous editions left out this go-around (it seems anything previously available only in SD got the axe, with maybe a new short retrospective featurette to replace it).  That’s because the previous Days of Thunder Blu-ray from 2008 had zero extras on it aside from the film’s trailer, so anything offered here is a step up. The extras, sparse as they may be, are the same on both the Blu-ray and 4K discs.

The new discs don’t include the trailer, but they do have a seven-minute “Filmmaker Focus” featurette which is essentially a retrospective interview with Bruckheimer interspersed with clips from the movie.

There’s also an isolated audio track containing just Hans Zimmer’s musical score, his first of many collaborations with the Bruckheimer/Simpson team. Zimmer’s music is a highlight of the movie, but compared with the rest of Zimmer’s works it comes across as one of the more generic efforts in a career built on establishing a baseline sound for reliable action cues.

Comcast’s Sky Sports Drops F1 Channel Price

Formula One auto racing has heated up in the over-the-top video world.

Comcast-owned Sky Sports announced that beginning March 1, it will drop the monthly price of its F1 channel 36% to €11.50 from €18, which includes a two-year price guarantee.

“Seven years ago we rewrote the rules and created a dedicated channel for F1, pushing the boundaries of sports broadcasting,” Stephen van Rooyen, CEO of Sky U.K. and Ireland, said in a statement. “Each year we challenge ourselves to go further and this year will be a whole new chapter. We are extremely proud to partner with F1, honoring the history and traditions of this great sport, whilst also taking fans even closer to the track and share our excitement for the future.”

F1 last year launched a proprietary OTT video service “F1 TV,” a $8-$12 monthly service available in four different languages (English, French, German and Spanish) and nearly two dozen markets, including Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Latin America.

In addition, Netflix launched “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” a 10-episode documentary series showcasing F1 behind-the-scenes.