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‘The Netflix Cup’: Golf-Formula 1 mashup marks streamer's live sports debut

Drivers and golfers do battle in the first-ever Netflix live sports show

(Courtesy Netflix)
(Courtesy Netflix)

A decade and a half ago, Marvel Studios broke new ground in cinema by combining the heroes of its individual movies — Iron Man, Captain America, Thor — into one blockbuster hero-fest called “The Avengers.” You might have heard something about it.

Netflix is trying to whip up an Avengers of its own, mashing together stars from the casts of two of its best-known documentary series — “Drive To Survive” and “Full Swing” — for “The Netflix Cup,” a one-off golf tournament in Las Vegas. Notably, the event will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday evening, marking Netflix’s initial leap into live sports programming.

The Netflix Cup pairs drivers with golfers for an eight-hole match play tournament at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas, with the top two teams advancing to a winner-take-all ninth hole. (No, this is not exactly a major.) The four F1 drivers include Williams’ Alex Albon, Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. The golfers involved are Rickie Fowler, Max Homa, Tony Finau and Justin Thomas, with Collin Morikawa joining the broadcast.

The competitive golf aspect of The Netflix Cup isn’t the key element of this broadcast; as long as the F1 drivers are even mildly competent and can throw off a one-liner or two, it’ll be a reasonably enjoyable way to spend two and a half hours. The focus here will be on the live component, which will give Netflix a chance to demonstrate whether it’s able to handle live events at scale.

(Courtesy Netflix)
(Courtesy Netflix)

What Netflix is hoping to avoid is a repeat of the “Love Is Blind” reunion livestream train wreck from back in April, when viewers couldn’t get into either the stream or, in some cases, the entire service.

While Netflix has stated publicly that it’s not interested in chasing the costly rights fees of major sports like NBA basketball and NFL football, it’s continuing to experiment with live one-off events. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix is considering a live broadcast of a Jake Paul boxing match.

“We are investing heavily in increasing our live capabilities so that as the demand grows for that and we find different ways, the liveness can be part of the creative storytelling,” co-CEO Ted Sarandos said at Netflix’s most recent earnings call, per Front Office Sports. “We want to be able to do that at a big scale.”

The Netflix Cup will serve as both a promotion for the two documentaries — “Drive To Survive” is filming its sixth season, while “Full Swing” is wrapping its second — but also as a proof-of-concept for future events on Netflix. One of them ought to be a reversal of The Netflix Cup, golfers driving F1 rockets on the streets of Vegas. Now that would be some must-watch documentary television.