Will live TV be the next frontier in the streaming wars?

Will live television be the next frontier in the streaming wars, and will Netflix finally crack?

Amazon recently announced it will be adding a live event to its streaming service – this time not of the sports variety. The Academy of Country Music Awards will be moving to Amazon Prime next year, away from CBS, which has aired the event for over 20 years.

Live events have long been a key factor in cable television’s success, delivering a vast amount of eyeballs for advertisers in one fell swoop, but Netflix has time and time again rejected the suggestion of adding live programming to its content, instead focusing on ad-free video on demand. While the experience of Amazon Prime’s live events have been – frankly – quite flat, streaming technology itself is capable of delivering rich, interactive experiences to viewers. It will be interesting to see how live events, and the sponsorship around them, will be reimagined for the streaming world, as more services follow in Amazon’s footsteps.

At Axonista, our quicktake is that the most likely game-changer will be live sports.

Disney+ already has a live sport add-on, delivered via the Disney-owned ESPN streaming service, and Amazon Prime has carried live NFL and tennis since 2017. Netflix has made inroads into sports television, releasing popular documentary-style shows like F1: Drive to Survive and The Last Dance, a co-production with ESPN, centred around NBA star Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls (97-98).

On a recent Q2 earnings call, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos said ‘never say never’ when questioned about the possibility of adding live sport in future.

Could this move by Amazon Prime spur Netflix to accelerate that reversal?

First published in Rerun, our weekly newsletter about the future of interactive video – sign up here.