Netflix Considering Live Sports Streaming

Since its streaming video inception, Netflix has steadfastly refused to consider offering live sports to its global subscribers, citing the unending escalating rights associated with major sports such as the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS, among others.

That mindset is changing as co-CEO Ted Sarandos hinted during last month’s fiscal call when he said the SVOD behemoth would consider live sports if there was a commensurate profit margin attached. At the same time, don’t necessarily expect the No. 1 SVOD platform to enter into the current NBA rights bidding war as it favors acquiring rights to lesser sports it feels it can help grow through the Netflix brand.

Indeed, Netflix has significantly increased U.S. interest in Formula One auto racing in part due to its successful “Drive to Survive” original reality series. But the streamer lost out to Disney’s ESPN for the U.S. rights after the multichannel platform agreed to pay a record $85 million annually — up a staggering 1,600% from the $5 million ESPN paid in 2018.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, reported that Netflix unsuccessfully bid on exclusive European rights to the ATP tennis tour, Women’s Tennis Association, and select European bicycle racing events. The streamer also was in negotiations to buy the World Surf League but could not come to an agreement on a purchase price.

Unlike most video entertainment, live sports have a built-in viewership base that can’t be ignored. Data from Insider Intelligence contends there are 160 million viewers in the U.S. watching at least one a month. Netflix has more than 73 million North American subscribers.

Amazon’s Prime Video platform began its exclusive distribution of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” game, a deal the streamer paid the NFL a record $1.2 billion annually for over the next 11 years. Amazon says the pact has thus far been a success. At the same time, the New York Yankees generated some bad press in September when Apple TV+ was the only platform available on Friday night to watch team member Aaron Judge’s attempt to break the American League’s single-season record of 61 home runs set by Roger Maris in 1961. Judge failed but did break the record on Oct. 4 in a game against the Texas Rangers.

“No other category of content comes with an existing audience that has to watch it live,” Lee Berke, CEO of LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media, told the Journal.

King Richard

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Drama;
Box Office $14.87 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray, $44.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some violence, strong language, a sexual reference and brief drug references.
Stars Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Jon Bernthal, Tony Goldwyn.

Will Smith gives an outstanding performance as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams, in a film that explores his vision for making them tennis superstars when they were growing up.

Hoping to break free of the cycle of poverty and violence of Compton, Richard creates a plan for his daughters to become professional tennis players and relentlessly sticks to it, often times running afoul of the coaches who agree to nurture his daughters’ talent. At times this makes him seem hard to like as he stubbornly refuses to take outside advice, but he remains intent to follow the plan he thinks gives his daughters their best shot at success in tennis.

The film covers the girls’ early years on the junior circuit, dominating the competition to such a degree that they attract the attention of a bevy of sports agents and management firms. Richard rejects most of their offers, wanting his instill a sense of normalcy in his girls and not willing to move on to the next level until he feels they are ready.

The Blu-ray includes two superfluous deleted scenes running a total of three minutes, and three behind-the scenes featurettes.

The nine-minute “Following the Plan” covers the making of the film, the six-and-a-half-minute “Becoming Richard” focuses on Smith’s performance, and the six-minute “Champions on Screen” looks at the child actresses playing Venus and Serena.

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Netflix to Bow Documentary Series on Tennis Star Naomi Osaka

Netflix will bow an untitled documentary series on tennis star Naomi Osaka, in association with Uninterrupted and produced by Film 45.

The series follows multiple-Grand Slam-champion Naomi Osaka, who became the first Asian player to reach the No. 1 singles ranking after winning her first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open in 2018 and second at the Australian Open in 2019.

The documentary series also gives audiences a window into the life of a global tennis superstar. It will cover Naomi’s pivotal year, from the U.S. Open in August 2019 and on tour with the tennis star as she plays in each of the Grand Slams and prepares for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. With a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, Osaka emigrated from Japan to the United States as a child, where she rose to become the first Asian player to reach the heights of international tennis. The series follows Naomi to Japan to understand her connection with the country she represents and the reflections of her multi-cultural identity.

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“To be able to tell my story and let people in during this big year, working with a team that really understands me, has been a rewarding experience,” said Osaka in a statement. “It won’t look like a traditional sports documentary, and I’m so excited to share it with everyone.”

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The series is directed by Garrett Bradley whose short film Alone was shortlisted for an Academy Award. At Sundance 2020, Bradley won Best Director for her U.S. documentary feature in competition TIME.