Should Netflix Pursue Broadcasting a Bowl Game?

Netflix will air two Christmas Day games in 2024. A bowl game could help the streamer diversify its sports portfolio and benefit a couple bowls.

The 68 Ventures Bowl was 2023’s least-watched bowl.
Source: Michael Chang/Getty Images

In the most shocking twist of the offseason, Netflix will televise not just one but two NFL games. On the first day of Christmas, the NFL gave the streamer two NFL games and a partridge in a pear tree (well, Netflix got the first thing).

Now, a world of possibilities of sports broadcasting options has emerged for the streamer's future. Netflix now has a piece of the NFL broadcasting pie, so a bowl game is realistic.

Exclusively Power Four bowls are the least likely to take a chance on a deal with a paywalled streaming service, but with enough money, Netflix could coax non-ESPN-owned Group of Five bowls. It is no secret that ESPN effectively owns the Group of Five postseason. Of the 21 bowls that routinely feature Group of Five schools, only seven are independent of ESPN Events ownership. They are listed below with their payout according to Business of College Sports:

  • Arizona Bowl ($350,000)
  • Independence Bowl ($2,200,000)
  • LA Bowl (Payout unannounced)
  • 68 Ventures Bowl ($1,500,000)
  • Military Bowl ($2,066,990)
  • New Orleans Bowl ($825,000)
  • Quick Lane Bowl ($2,000,00)

Only the Arizona Bowl does not have a TV deal with ESPN. However, their broadcast deal with The CW arguably gives them more exposure than a partnership with the cable sports giant. The two non-ESPN-owned Group of Five bowls that benefit the most from a deal with Netflix are the New Orleans Bowl and LendingTree Bowl.

A deal with Netflix could be a significant financial boost for these bowls. Netflix paid around $150 million per game for the rights to four Christmas Day games across the next three seasons. Hardly any information exists on individual TV contracts for bowl games.

However, it is realistic to imagine Netflix would be willing to outbid ESPN for a Group of Five Bowl to diversify its sports portfolio and draw new subscribers. ESPN televises 40 of 43 bowls, so a bidding war for a Group of Five bowl seems not worth the energy. The New Orleans Bowl and 68 Ventures Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, would benefit the most from an influx of TV money.

The new influx of TV money could help these bowls attract better matchups to these bowls. While the Sun Belt respects the New Orleans Bowl's time-tested loyalty, the LendingTree Bowl has struggled from the Sun Belt's prioritization of the ESPN-owned bowls.

2023's game featured a pair of 6-6 schools, while 2022's game featured a 5-7 school facing a 6-6-6 school. More money from a Netflix media deal could catapult more of the Sun Belt, Conference USA, and MAC's best teams into the 68 Ventures Bowl.

A new media deal with Netflix could mean better broadcast windows for either bowl. Last year, the 68 Ventures Bowl had the lowest viewership of any bowl game in the 2023 postseason. Aired at 7:00 PM ET against ABC's nightcap of the Las Vegas Bowl between Northwestern and Utah, the game's ratings were doomed. It was clear that ESPN was using the game as filler in its colossal seven-game slate on its family of networks. Netflix could give the bowl a better timeslot against less or no competition under a new deal.

Netflix's exclusive rights deal for the NFL's Christmas Day games is the latest in the streaming service arms race. Even then, subscribers on the fence about subscribing to Netflix may choose to pass due to the lack of value. A bowl game or two could convince football fans that a one-month Netflix membership is worth the cost.

Lower-tier bowl games could benefit from Netflix entering the fold. More revenue and better broadcast windows could improve their standing in college football's postseason. Overall, a Netflix experiment could create a symbiotic relationship between a bowl game and the streamer.