Streaming giant Netflix Inc NFLX is known for its binge-watching and allowing users to stream content whenever they want. The company could be testing out how well live content is received and if it can help with its sports aspirations and new advertising tier launch.
What Happened: One of the areas Netflix has focused on for content over the years has been comedy specials. The company has spent millions on acquiring content from some of the biggest names in the comedy space.
Now, Netflix is testing out a live special from a comedian who was in the news a lot in 2022, thanks to that infamous slap at the Academy Awards.
“Chris Rock is one of the most iconic and important comedic voices of our generation,” Netflix’s Vice President of Stand-Up and Comedy Robbie Praw said. “We’re thrilled the entire world will be able to experience a live Chris Rock comedy event and be part of Netflix history.”
This marks the first test of a large-scale live-streaming event for Netflix.
Disney+, a unit of The Walt Disney Company DIS, previously tested a livestream by airing the Academy Award nominations. The streaming platform aired the nomination telecast along with Disney unit ABC.
“We performed a test for livestreaming capabilities on Disney+ in the U.S.” the company told The Streamable at the time. “We are pleased with the results and will continue to test…to deliver the best user experiences to consumers.”
Why It’s Important: While the Chris Rock live special on Netflix could be a one-off or a simple test, it could also be a test to see how well live content does for the streaming giant, a move that could impact its future path.
Netflix has been actively bidding on the rights to sports content, a sector that has done well as a live television offering compared to many programs that now see large viewership from both live and streaming at any time.
Benzinga reported that Netflix bid on rights to the ATP tennis tour for several countries, the U.K. rights to the Women’s Tennis Association and cycling competitions. The company also discussed buying the World Surf League in a move to get into sports rights.
Earlier this year, Netflix was also rumored to be in the running for the media rights to the racing league Formula 1, which is owned by Liberty Formula One Group FWONAFWONK.
Netflix and other streaming companies bidding aggressively on sports rights could be great for sports leagues, and could also be good for consumers who already have subscriptions to a handful of streaming platforms and don’t want to pay for cable just to have sports channels.
With rivals like Amazon.com Inc AMZN and Apple Inc AAPL acquiring rights to sports leagues to get more customers to sign up for streaming subscriptions, Netflix could face a crossroads of investing heavily in sports or avoiding live content like sports altogether. Rival Disney has tons of sports rights via its ESPN brand.
The bigger wildcard here is the recent launch of an ad-supported plan for Netflix. Sports content often commands strong advertising rates due to its high live viewership figures. Netflix now has a way to monetize the potential sports rights it acquires by offering ad space during contests on the ad-supported plan.
Netflix ended the third quarter with 223.1 million subscribers, adding 2.41 million net new subs in the quarter.
Disney+ ended the fourth quarter with 164.2 million subscribers. Counting Hulu and ESPN+ with Disney+, the media company now has over 235 million subscribers.
For Netflix to remain the leader in the streaming space and fight off competition while also boosting the value offering as it raises the price, it will likely have to pursue a decisive plan to add live content.
NFLX Price Action: Netflix shares were up 6% to $290.13 on Friday.
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