Netflix ‘would think about’ a Formula 1 takeover

Date published: September 24 2021 - Jon Wilde

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen side by side at the start of the British GP. Silverstone July 2021.

Netflix are not ruling out trying to secure the commercial rights for Formula 1 following the success of their Drive to Survive docuseries.

Love it or hate it, Drive to Survive has attracted a new, younger audience to F1 beyond its normal reach, being especially popular in America.

It could therefore be perceived as a natural – although ambitious – step for the Netflix platform, on which it is shown, to launch a buyout of Formula 1 and make their first entry into the arena of streaming live sports, which is something they have steered clear of to date.

The reason, according to Reed Hastings, their CEO, is that they are all about “entertainment, not journalism”, and they prefer to have full control over what is broadcast.

That is the case with ‘Drive to Survive’, in which a film crew accompanies a team, driver or personality within the sport and the content is then edited to cut the best possible offering for viewers. A fourth series, covering the 2021 season, is currently in the making.

Nevertheless, a Netflix bid to take full control of F1 from Liberty Media in the future is not completely off the table.

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“With sports broadcasts we have no control over the source,” said Hastings during an interview with Der Spiegel.

“We don’t own the Bundesliga, which can make deals with whomever it wants. But this kind of control would be a pre-requisite for us to be able to offer our customers a secure deal.

“A few years ago, the [commercial] rights to Formula 1 were sold. At that time we were not among the bidders. Today, we would think about it.”

 

There is a precedent with streaming services acquiring live sports rights as Amazon have secured high-profile football and tennis in the shape of the Premier League (selected matches) and the US Open, but not with regard to an entire organisation.

However, Hastings admitted it would represent quite a departure from the modus operandi of Netflix, which comes down to their ideology being to provide entertainment that appeals to a global demographic.

“News is by its nature political, and it varies greatly from country to country,” said Hastings.

“It’s difficult to produce news as a globally operating company without making enemies. It’s much easier for others who only cater to a regional market.

“Besides, we make entertainment and not journalism, which should have certain standards and follow ethical guidelines. We also keep our hands off live sport.”

 

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