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  • Jacob Koehler

Netflix Ventures into Live Sports with Innovative Netflix Cup Golf Event

On Tuesday November 14th, the streaming giant Netflix broke ground with their first live sporting event streamed on the site. The matches were held at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas.

Four fan-favorite golfers and Formula 1 drivers were paired together and competed in separate 8-hole matches in scramble format. Match 1 was Justin Thomas & Carlos Sainz vs Lando Norris & Rickie Fowler, while match 2 was Alex Albon & Max Homa vs Pierre Gasly & Tony Finau.

The winners of each match then competed in a playoff hole, where Thomas & Sainz ultimately came out victorious.

Over the last few years, Netflix released ultra-popular shows that dive into the personal lives of athletes that don’t typically see as much inside coverage. The hit show Drive to Survive details the lives of F-1 racers, greatly boosting the sport’s popularity. After the success of Drive to Survive, Netflix followed it up with a similar show in Full Swing, highlighting the inside lives of PGA golfers.

In an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of these shows, Netflix (being the Souja Boy of streaming services) became the first streamer to host their own live sporting event. We have seen Amazon Prime throw their own twists on NFL Thursday Night Football coverage, but that is ultimately under ownership of the NFL. The event was messy, but could have been a peek into the future of sports.

A common critique of golf and racing coverage is that it can be boring to watch. Netflix attempted to shake up the typical coverage of these sports by adding some new elements to keep the broadcast more entertaining. They had legendary NFL running back Marshawn Lynch commentating off the Henny, along with comedian Bert Kreischer, Full Swing star Joel Dahmen, and sportscaster Kay Adams.

The event was significantly shorter than a typical golf tournament, which span 72 holes over four days. Different holes had special rules and gimmicks, such as a chaotic speed-hole which was a race for each team to put the ball in the cup. One hole went towards the new Las Vegas Sphere, as it watched the golfer's shots with an emoji face. Netflix flexed their cultural significance, throwing in elements specific to the streaming platform such as Squid Game guards standing at one of the tee boxes.

The sport of golf is one conserved by traditionalists who aren’t fond of any change in the game. It can be this reason that outsiders find the sport boring and too stuck up. As the LIV golf league has done, Netflix has followed suit in breaking some of the rules in an attempt to make golf appeal to more people.

It’s hard to judge if the Netflix Cup was a success. There were moments when everyone was confused, including the broadcasters and participants. The coverage was all over the place and flopped in certain segments or aspects. While the coverage and structure had many bumps that needed smoothing out, it was overall an interesting look into what we can expect as sports and entertainment further mashup. The future of golf as well as the marriage of streaming and sports will be interesting to keep an eye on over the coming years.

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