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Netflix shows interest in NBA media rights for In-Season Tournament

Nov 14, 2023

Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Netflix is showing "some interest" in acquiring TV rights for the NBA's newly launched In-Season Tournament, Sports Business Journal reports.

Why it matters: While Netflix execs publicly signal their desire to stay out of the expensive bidding wars for sports rights, privately they're at least kicking the tires.

The big picture: Netflix has been laying the groundwork for an eventual live sports play over the past year.

  • The service launched an ad tier last year that could rely more on live events.
  • Netflix streamed two live events in 2023 — a Chris Rock standup special and a "Love is Blind" reunion show, the latter of which was beset by numerous technical problems.
  • Today, Netflix streams its own self-created sports event, The Netflix Cup, a competition that features drivers from its "Formula 1: Drive to Survive" series and golfers from "Full Swing."

Yes, but: This wouldn't be the first time Netflix has shown interest in live sports only to decide against a full pursuit. Last year, it made a bid to stream Formula 1 races, but it was well below what ESPN eventually paid, meaning it was a non-starter.

  • "We are in the sports business, but we're in the part that we bring the most value to, which is the drama of sport," Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said during its earnings call last month, while also adding they're "investing heavily in live capabilities."

Be smart: Nobody but the NBA's two current media partners, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, can negotiate for rights until their exclusive window expires in April.

  • Netflix is one of a handful of tech companies expected to bid on NBA rights, including Amazon and Apple. Comcast's NBCUniversal is also expected to vie for a TV package.
  • The NBA is widely expected to expand its number of rights partners when it begins its new deal with the 2025-26 season.
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