Since March 2023, Netflix has been experimenting with live streams, kicking off with a Chris Rock comedy special, moving to the disastrous reality special, and more recently dabbling in zoo live streams. Its big foray into sports came on November 14th with The Netflix Cup, which saw Formula 1 drivers and PGA golfers team up for an unconventional golf match.
The format of the stream, which was laid out within the first 15 minutes after a slick introduction with sweeping views of the Wynn Golf Club, was that you’d see a tournament of four duos battle it out across numerous challenges on the golf course with the format significantly mixed up.
Among the challenges the duos faced incorporated a golf buggy race or a Squid Game-inspired round where players could only tee off when the doll wasn’t looking. You can’t say it wasn’t unique.
The location was stunning, and the hosts, particularly Bert Kreischer, kept things moving and were good at interviewing guests, which were plentiful. Mark Wahlberg, Blake Griffin, Steve Aoki, Collin Morikawa, and a Zoom appearance with Patrick Mahomes featured throughout.
Undoubtedly, the biggest star of the show was the sphere that impressed constantly throughout, with Netflix having complete control over what was displayed on the incredible structure.
Messy format and audio issues
My biggest issue with the stream was it was a real struggle to keep up with the event’s storyline. That is a vital part of any live sports event, even if it is supposed to be silly and just for fun.
Because the four pairs were split, it quickly became impossible to know what was happening beyond the first event. You’d occasionally get a scoreboard thrown up that tried to keep you up-to-date on the score but you didn’t feel that involved with each pairs journey.
This was made worse because you’d cut away constantly throughout each round. One pair could be on round three while the other pair are still on round two.
Even worse, you could cut away entirely from the match (despite them still playing) to get a sneak peek at Formula 1: Drive to Survive season 6. These interuptions continuously made you miss the action with you picking back up with a duo midway through finding their ball or teeing off again. There was a significant stint of the stream where you’d forget Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly were even participating.
The audio was the most significant technical blunder throughout the entire event. Crackling audio input. Whispers on a hot mic. Everyone talking over each other. Audio coming from the second duos while you’re watching the first duos tee off. It was a mess.
The lowkey funniest part of the event was someone dropping an F-bomb on a hot mic only for the age rating for the title to be bumped to a 15. Good catch!
The event featured plenty of sponsors, with the asking price for advertisers to be involved with the stream reportedly costing them at least $2 million. The ads weren’t traditional spots but mingled into the events and replays. You also saw plenty of ads dotted around on various stands and billboards. Nothing overly intrusive.
Discoverability remains an issue for Netflix Live
The issue of finding ‘The Netflix Cup’ has been prevalent in many of Netflix’s live streams, particularly those featuring zoos. I was presented the banner for ‘The Netflix Cup’ in my web browser around 15 minutes before the stream began. However, when I switched to my TV in the living room, it wasn’t the top item; rather, it appeared in my ‘Watch Again’ row, so I resumed. Later, when I went to bed (the live stream continued well past midnight GMT) and tried to watch on my mobile, I couldn’t find it. It was neither in my ‘Watch Again’ row nor the top banner. Eventually, I had to search for ‘Golf’, and thankfully, it appeared in the search results.
A positive was that the mobile stream accurately picked up where I had left off on my TV, though I could easily jump to the live portion of the stream.
I wasn’t alone in having difficulty finding the stream; many others also struggled to locate it online.
However, it’s not immediately clear how this issue can be resolved, especially considering the infrequency of Netflix live streams. It’s not feasible to have a permanent ‘live’ tab on the left side of the TV user interface or at the top of a web browser. Perhaps a dedicated row for live events could be featured both in the lead-up to and during such events, making them more accessible.”
On a positive note, my colleague Frederic was at least able to watch the stream on his French Netflix account this time around. Although there were no French subtitles or dubbing, the event was at least accessible—a significant improvement since previously it wouldn’t even appear or play.
In conclusion, this was a watchable event showing that Netflix Live as a platform is getting there but not quite ready for prime time. You can rewatch The Netflix Cup via Netflix, but I’d probably suggest just waiting for the next one.