Is Netflix limbering up for live sport?

This article is an online version of our Scoreboard newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every Saturday

To start, we have some big news to share about our Business of Football Summit, coming to London on February 28-29.

Swedish football legend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be among the top-tier set of speakers on our increasingly packed agenda. He’ll be joined on stage by Gerry Cardinale, founder of AC Milan owner RedBird Capital, the investment firm that recently signed up the former Rossoneri striker as an adviser.

As a Scoreboard subscriber, you can register for your complimentary digital pass here to watch the event online, or save £200 on your in-person pass to join us at The Biltmore Mayfair on 29 February. Register here.

A headliner from a previous edition of the summit is this week’s guest for Lunch with the FT. Over spaghetti alle vongole, former Juventus chair Andrea Agnelli defends his role in the European Super League, his stewardship of Italy’s most successful football club, and explains his decision to start a new life in Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, the FT’s Los Angeles correspondent Christopher Grimes is asking if a $5bn deal to stream scripted wrestling bouts is a sign that Netflix is finally moving closer to showing live sport. As the battle to reach the Super Bowl enters its final throws, we’ll look at the remarkable revival of the Detroit Lions. Do read on — Josh Noble, sports editor

Send us tips and feedback at Not already receiving the email newsletter? Sign up here. For everyone else, let’s go.

WWE deal opens sports streaming door for Netflix

Raw deal: Netflix commits $5bn to stream live WWE bouts © AP

Netflix’s success with what it calls “sports adjacent programming” — docuseries such as Beckham, Break Point or Formula One: Drive to Survive — has long prompted speculation that it would dive into streaming live sports sooner or later.

Its competitors are already there. Amazon has signed a 10-year deal with the NFL to stream Thursday Night Football, while Apple TV+ has a streaming agreement with Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer. Peacock has a deal with the English Premier League. 

So when Netflix and WWE announced a 10-year, $5.5bn deal this week to stream Raw — the wrestling show that launched the careers of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Cena and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin — it was widely seen as a first step into live sports programming. 

Yes, yes — we know. Pro wrestling is not a proper sport, but “scripted sports entertainment,” as Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos noted on a video chat with investors on Tuesday. And he said that is precisely why WWE is a good fit with Netflix, while proper sport is not. 

“WWE is really as close to our core as you can get, which is sports storytelling,” Sarandos said. So I would not look at this as a signal of any change to our sports strategy.”

As Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed Partners, points out, Netflix has been averse to traditional sports deals because they believed they would “unlock substantial value for the sport and didn’t want to have to pay up for the value they created when the next deal came up”.

Of course, Netflix executives have shown that they have no problem with suddenly deciding to do things they swore they would never do, like run adverts or crack down on password sharing. And if Netflix does ever decide to sign a deal with a proper sports league, the company will have already cut its teeth on the technical aspects of live streaming matches. The Raw deal will have Netflix streaming three episodes per week, 52 weeks a year.  

This is valuable — especially since Netflix has had mixed success in its limited experiments in live streaming. Last year’s plan to livestream a Love is Blind reunion show was marred by messages to “Hang tight” before it was finally scrapped. Presumably this will have all been worked out before the Raw deal starts next year. After all, nobody wants to be the one to tell The Rock he has to wait. 

How the Ford family revived the Detroit Lions

Ten years ago last July, the city of Detroit became the largest US city to ever file for bankruptcy, laden with more than $18bn in debt after decades of industrial decline and population drain.

This month, the city is celebrating its resurgence with a truly historic winter of American football. The University of Michigan Wolverines won their first college national championship in almost three decades, and the Detroit Lions are just one win away from what would be their first-ever Super Bowl appearance.

The FT visited Detroit this week to take the pulse of the Motor City — stay tuned for our report later this weekend. 

The history of the Lions overlaps with the history of Detroit itself. Founded as a franchise in the 1930s, the team was purchased for $4.5mn by the grandson of Henry Ford in 1963 (coincidentally, on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated). It remains in the family to this day, with Ford’s great-granddaughter Sheila Ford Hamp the current principal owner and chair. Like the Mara family and the New York Giants, and Rooney family behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Fords are part of an old guard in the most exclusive club in the US: dynastic NFL owners.

Ford Hamp is credited with the current renaissance of the Lions, who have never appeared in a Super Bowl and last won a playoff game before the break-up of Yugoslavia. In 2021, she hired a gruff Texan and former NFL tight end Dan Campbell to coach the Lions. At the time, he was a peculiar selection: his only head coaching experience was in an interim capacity for the Miami Dolphins. More relevant, perhaps, was that Campbell played three seasons with the Lions in his athletic career, including their ignominious 0-16 season in 2008. 

What earned him the job, however, was sending Ford Hamp a book of his philosophy on coaching. “It was like he read our minds”, she told reporters at the time.

The Lions went 3-13 in their first season under Campbell but improved to 9-8 last year and 12-5 this year. The team also sold out of season tickets for the first time since Ford Field opened in 2002. 

“Everybody has been dying for it for so long”, Campbell said this week, of the Lions’ success. “The environment [at Ford Field] is better than any you’re going to find in the NFL. I mean, back-to-back weeks, your eardrums are just banging”.

The Lions were last valued by Forbes at $3.6bn last summer — an eighty-fold increase on the price paid by the Ford family to buy the team in 1963, when adjusted for inflation. It is too soon to say what a Super Bowl berth — let alone win — could portend for the Lions’ fortunes. First, they face the San Francisco 49ers in a must-win game tomorrow.

Real Madrid back on top of football’s rich list

Despite winning the Champions League for the first time, Manchester City has lost its crown as Europe’s richest football team. According to two new reports from Deloitte and Football Benchmark, Real Madrid are back on top of the wealth league table. It bodes well for the Spanish giant. The revamped Santiago Bernabéu should help boost revenue next year too.

Column chart of Annual revenue, €mn showing Real Madrid regain rich list crown


Klopp out: Champions League winner to step down from Liverpool in the summer © AFP via Getty Images
  • Jurgen Klopp stunned the football world yesterday by announcing his decision to step down as Liverpool head coach at the end of the season. The German, 56, said he had “run out of energy”.

  • Uefa’s chief of football Zvonimir Boban has quit in protest at an attempt to change the rules so that Aleksander Čeferin can extend his tenure as president of European football’s governing body.

  • Belfast’s Casement Park is in line to be a venue for Euro 2028, due to be held across the UK and Ireland. But even before work begins on the derelict stadium, a row has erupted over who stands to benefit from the £120mn investment.

  • Ferrari is taking to the water. This week the Italian car brand announced it will design yachts that can compete in international sailing competitions.

Final Whistle

Speaking in tongues: Eric Dier gives a peculiar interview this week

England international Eric Dier made his debut for Bayern Munich this week following his €4mn move from Tottenham Hotspur. The German champions beat Union Berlin 1-0 to close the gap on table toppers Bayer Leverkusen to four points.

But none of that, frankly matters. What does is how quickly Dier has adjusted to life in Munich. Just check out his new accent.

Scoreboard is written by Josh Noble, Samuel Agini and Arash Massoudi in London, Sara Germano, James Fontanella-Khan, and Anna Nicolaou in New York, with contributions from the team that produce the Due Diligence newsletter, the FT’s global network of correspondents and data visualisation team

Recommended newsletters for you

The Lex Newsletter — Lex is the FT’s incisive daily column on investment. Local and global trends from expert writers in four great financial centres. Sign up here

Due Diligence — Top stories from the world of corporate finance. Sign up here


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.