Before “Full Swing” brought the PGA Tour stars to life on Netflix last year, there was “Drive to Survive,” the popular series based on Formula One racing that played a significant role in the tour agreeing to have its story told in a different, more personal way.
Those two things – the PGA Tour and Formula One – cross paths on Tuesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, when Netflix hosts its first live sports event, the Netflix Cup, a match-play exhibition featuring four PGA Tour players and four F1 drivers.
It’s a big moment for the streaming service, stepping into the live-action world, and it’s also another step toward a broader audience for the PGA Tour, tying into F1 whose international appeal is enormous.
The event will stream live at 6 p.m. EST November 14 on Netflix.
Rickie Fowler, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas will represent the PGA Tour while Alex Albon, Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz are the four F1 drivers who will participate.
There will be four two-player teams (one golfer, one driver), and they will play an eight-hole match at Wynn Golf Club, the only 18-hole course on the Las Vegas Strip. The top two teams will go on to a ninth hole where they will determine the winner of the first Netflix Cup.
“Drive to Survive” is in its sixth season and will kick off a week of festivities surrounding the Las Vegas Grand Prix late on Saturday, November 18.
“Having these two things intersect at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, getting the drivers together with the players at one of the biggest events in the United States is a cool opportunity,” said Norb Gambuzza, senior vice president of media and gaming for the PGA Tour. “Netflix came up with the idea, and we said we would love to figure out a way to make this happen.”
“I think we’ve seen these matches kind of co-exist amongst all of our schedules over the past handful of years, and I think this is going to be a great event to tie in the actual F1 race in Vegas. I don’t know what to expect, but I know it’s going to be a lot of fun.” – Collin Morikawa
Bringing in the F1 drivers is new for the PGA Tour.
“I’m thrilled,” Morikawa said. “I was watching ‘Drive to Survive’ when everybody else was in the COVID era, and then everyone started getting involved in that. I love waking up on Sundays to watch the races now.
“I think we’ve seen these matches kind of co-exist amongst all of our schedules over the past handful of years, and I think this is going to be a great event to tie in the actual F1 race in Vegas. I don’t know what to expect, but I know it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Netflix has expanded its sports offerings. In addition to “Drive to Survive” and “Full Swing,” the streaming service has produced “Untold,” “Quarterback,” “Tour de France: Unchained” and “Break Point,” with future shows about track and field, soccer, rugby and NASCAR in the works.
“The more Netflix leans into sports in any way shape or form, it’s good for sports,” Gambuzza said. “We’re excited about what we’ve done with them and what we’re doing with them.”
The first season of “Full Swing” was formulated off the success of the F1 series, and it did well enough that Netflix and the PGA Tour quickly agreed to a second season, which is expected to debut in early 2024 and culminates with the recent Ryder Cup.
The first season of “Full Swing” reached No. 2 on the Netflix top 10 in both the United States and United Kingdom and was No. 1 in Ireland.
According to Nielsen Media Research Analysis, more than 60 percent of the viewers were in the 25-54 age group, and 63 percent of those viewers watched some PGA Tour coverage in the two months following the series’ debut. That included 11 percent who tuned in to a tour telecast after having not watched any golf in the previous six months.
“When we got into this project and we went to the players and managers, our only frame of reference was ‘Drive to Survive,’” Gambuzza said. “As we got into the player discussions, we found a vast majority of our players had been watching the show. That gave them a sense of comfort about how they would be portrayed and the power of the Netflix brand.”
Beyond Netflix, the tour’s television ratings were up in 2023. NBC showed an overall increase of 3 percent, and the nine “signature events” on CBS were up 5 percent over the same tournaments in 2022.
PGA Tour Live on ESPN+ was the most streamed content on the platform, with ratings up over the previous year.
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