Netflix Streams First-Ever Live Sports Event Featuring F1 Drivers, PGA Tour Golfers

At precisely 3 p.m. PT on Nov. 14, Netflix began live streaming its first-ever sports event, The Netflix Cup golf tournament from the Wynn Las Vegas, the only 18-hole golf course located on the Vegas strip.

The two-and-a-half hour event was everything one might expect from industry disruptor Netflix crashing a normally hushed golf tournament: noise, chaos, odd celebrity pairings (Mark Wahlberg, Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams, NBA’s Blake Griffin and DJ Steve Aoki in person; Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes via Zoom), dropped mikes, jumbled camera shots, overhead drones, a steady stream of departing airplanes overhead from nearby Harry Reid International Airport, profanity and an exciting finish under the lights against the backdrop of the Sphere.

That’s right: Nighttime golf.

Winners Carlos Sainz, Justin Thomas lift the Netflix Cup.

 

Through it all, two-time PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas hit the ball closet to the cup on the final hole to help Spanish teammate, F1 driver Carlos Sainz, defeat French F1 driver Pierre Gasly and his teammate, PGA Tour pro Tony Finau (replacing last minute scratch Collin Morikawa), and hoist the inaugural Netflix Cup trophy, presented by smiling Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos.

In front an enthusiastic gallery (primarily there to see the PGA pros), two teams of four players featuring England’s F1 driver Lando Norris and PGA Tour pro Rickie Fowler teed off against Sainz and Thomas. The second match featured Thailand’s F1 driver Alex Albon and PGA Tour pro Max Homa vs. Gasly and Finau. The winners of each match met for a one-hole playoff.

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From the outset, the first hole was anything but ordinary, with each set of teams trying to drive the ball and complete the hole as fast as possible (in a nod to this weekend’s F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix and Netflix’s popular “F1: Drive to Survive” docuseries). The resulting free-for-all left event host Kay Adams confused as to what was happening, while sideline hosts, including former NFL RB Marshawn Lynch and comedian Bert Kreischer added to the craziness. In the end, no one playing knew who actually won the hole.

Things calmed down as PGA golfer and Netflix “Full Swing” star Joel Dahmen cooly explained how pro golfers approach their shots as the competition moved on. Thomas was especially good giving input to teammate Sainz. He was clearly there to win.

Indeed, Thomas won the long drive competition with a shot reaching 327 yards. But no one came close to winning a special $4.56 million hole-in-one shot on the fifth hole, which had to be hit behind the back of a giant “Squid Game” doll — and only when her oscillating head faced away from the golfer. Failure to do so would negate the shot.

The prize was in reference to Netflix’s upcoming “Squid Game: The Challenge” reality competition show that will award one winner $4.56 million in cash.

The real winner was Netflix, which proved it could bounce back from last year’s disastrous “Love is Blind” live reunion episode that failed to launch due to technical glitches, and stage a live sports event on par with Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football,” and Major League Soccer on Apple TV+, which remain the only original live sports streaming on U.S. platforms.

1.7 Million People Live-Streamed F1 Eifel Grand Prix on YouTube

A record 1.7 million people live-streamed for free on YouTube Germany’s Formula 1 Eifel Grand Prix auto race on Oct. 11. across Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. It marked the first time a F1 race had been streamed live on Google-owned YouTube.

F1, which is owned by Liberty Media, attributed the streaming increase in part to viewer interest in British driver Lewis Hamilton equaling Michael Schumacher’s record 91 F1 wins. About 31% of streamers were under the age of 25, while 68% were under 35. More than 33 % streamed on mobile phones, and 30% streamed on smart TVs.

“It’s clear to see that younger fans are more engaged with live streaming than ever before,” Adam Crothers, head of digital media rights at Formula 1, said in a statement.

Crothers said the partnership with YouTube affords viewers unable or unwilling to pay for F1 televised access with a means to engage with the sport. Indeed, F1 drivers for the first time appeared on Google Cameos — the app that enables public figures to record video responses to frequently asked questions in Google searches.

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“It’s incredible to see how far Formula 1 has come on the platform in the past few years and continues to position us as one of the strongest sports brands on YouTube,” Crothers said.

The YouTube F1 channel has has generated 40 million viewers in the past 90 days, with 800 million views this year. The channel is one of the largest on YouTube, with a larger user base than any other sports brand, according to data from Shareablee (Jan 1 to Oct. 12, 2020).

Netflix Launches F1 Auto Racing Series

Netflix has launched “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” a 10-episode documentary series showcasing the excitement and dangers of F1 auto racing.

From the creators of “Senna,” the 2010 doc on the late three-time Brazilian F1 champion Ayrton Senna, Netflix’s series probes access to the drivers, team principals and owners, as well as Formula 1’s own management team.

The series is executive-produced by Academy-Award winner James Gay Rees and Paul Martin for Box to Box Films.

“This partnership with Formula 1 furthers our mission of working with world-class brands and production partners to produce best-in-class unscripted series,” Bela Bajaria, VP of content for Netflix, said in a statement last year when the doc was first announced.

Formula 1, which recently bowed its first over-the-top streaming service, believes Netflix’s global audience and brand will help attract more casual fans.

“We are actively repositioning from a motorsport company to a media and entertainment brand,” said Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations at F1. “The agreement with Netflix serves to chronicle the fascinating story of what transpires behind the scenes during a grand prix season. This is a perspective of the sport that has yet to be unveiled to fans around the world.”

 

 

 

Formula 1 Launching OTT Video Racing Service

As expected, Formula 1 is set to launch a proprietary over-the-top video service prior to the start of 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season March 25 at the Melbourne Grand Prix in Australia.

Dubbed “F1 TV,” the $8-$12 monthly service will be available in four different languages (English, French, German and Spanish) and available in nearly two dozen markets, including Germany, France, USA, Mexico, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Latin America.

Access will initially be available on the Internet, with mobile apps and TV apps phased in on Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Android.

Subscribers will be able to view practice, qualifying and races, in addition to press conferences and pre-and post-race interviews. Subs will also be able to watch live races of the main support series, the FIA Formula 2 Championship, GP3 Series and Porsche Supercup, among others.

“We are beginning on the journey to build a cornerstone of our digital transformation,” Frank Arthofer, director of digital and new business, Formula 1, said in a statement.

F1 TV joins a growing market of sport-specific OTT platforms (MLB.tv, NHL.tv, NBA League Pass, MLS Live, etc.) aimed at hardcore fans and attracting new, tech-savvy audiences.

“Our objective … is simple: provide these fans with the best available service to watch live Grands Prix and provide them with the best sports OTT customer experience in the world. Live streaming video is an exciting space changing almost daily,” Arthofer said.