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From the left, Alexander Albon, Tony Finau and Pierre Gasly play in The Netflix Cup, a live Netflix Sports event, at Wynn Las Vegas Golf in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 14.David Becker/Getty Images

When Netflix took a bold step last month into the mid-20th century – producing its first live sports broadcast – the result brought to mind a moment from the final season of Succession, in which the fearsome Logan Roy shreds his four adult children by telling them, with equal parts disdain and resignation, “I love you, but you are not serious people.”

I love you, Netflix. But – well, you know.

To call the event staged by the streamer a dog’s breakfast would insult pet owners who pride themselves on canine gastronomy. It was a gonzo golf match titled The Netflix Cup, a TV special that paired four stars of its soapy reality series Formula 1: Drive to Survive with four PGA players from its Full Swing docuseries, sprinkling in elements of other shows including its football docuseries Quarterback and the bloody, dystopian Squid Game. The goal seemed to be to create a fun-loving crossbreed: Maybe a sheepadoodle! But no, this was a mutt.

For years now, media watchers have been waiting for Netflix to bigfoot its way into the majors, disrupting sports just as it has the movie business, from popcorn blockbusters to Oscar bait. Pro leagues around the world would love to have another bidder in the mix to goose the value of their rights, especially one that expects to spend about US$17-billion on content next year.

Would they, though? So far, Netflix seems to regard live sports as a bit of a goof. And for all the talk about how Drive to Survive has supercharged Formula One′s global popularity, a trove of viewing data released this week by Netflix reinforces the growing belief that that series caught lightning in a bottle. None of the streamer’s sports programming since then comes close to pulling in that kind of audience.

On Tuesday, Netflix published a report spelling out how many hours each of its films and TV series were viewed between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year. The spreadsheet included every title that attracted more than 50,000 hours of viewing across the globe, which executives said composed more than 99 per cent of its total viewership of almost 100 billion hours.

As you might expect, the top of the list was dominated by its signature TV hits: Season 1 of The Night Agent (812 million hours), Season 2 of Ginny & Georgia (665 million), Season 1 of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s spy comedy FUBAR (266 million), the new Bridgerton story (503 million).

The top-ranked sports content, the newest season of Drive to Survive, landed in 115th place, with 90 million hours viewed. Given that its eight episodes ran about 6 hours 20 minutes (not including end credits), that’s an average of about 14 million views per instalment.

The next most popular sports content was the first season of Full Swing, landing in 268th place with about 53 million hours viewed, or an average of about 9.3 million views per episode.

The first season of Tour de France: Unchained drew about 22 million hours, or a little more than four million views for each episode. The tennis series Break Point pulled in similar numbers. So, about the same as the average U.S. viewership of Saturday Night Live, which seems a little underwhelming for a global service with about 250 million subscribers.

I suppose cycling and tennis geeks are pleased to get more access to the athletes they admire, and to see their sports get some love from a global platform. But the series seem unlikely to spark a Drive to Survive-style crush of new fans.

And the purists might want to brace themselves for what comes next. On a call with reporters this week, Netflix executives said that their chief goal is engagement: that is, getting subscribers to click on a title and to keep watching.

The Netflix Cup offered a glimpse of what that might mean to its treatment of sports.

The match began with what was called a “speed hole,” in which four golfers teed off simultaneously and then raced down the fairway in a pair of carts, jumping out onto the green to locate their balls and knock them into the hole as quickly as possible – while trying not to trip over each other. At the third hole, players teed off in front of a replica of the giant laser-eyed doll from Squid Game, which oversees a murderous version of the children’s game Red Light, Green Light in which contestants are gunned down if they move while she’s got her head turned toward them.

However, Netflix Cup golfers were only threatened with a loss of points if they were caught teeing off while the doll was watching, rather than summarily dispatched from this life.

But Netflix is just getting started. This week, the streamer announced it will stage its first live tennis spectacle, The Netflix Slam, on March 3 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The headlining match will feature Rafael Nadal against Carlos Alcaraz, with other players still to be announced.

What Netflix-only twist might they unleash on the event? Maybe they’ll put up all of the players for a week at the Mandalay for a special edition of Love is Blind, and not let them out until they’re all engaged with each other? Could the players emerge from the warm-up rooms dressed in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story finery? Or maybe they’ll spend the first set trying to dodge operatives from The Night Agent, then tangle with the spies of FUBAR in the second set, and play the third set in Stranger Things’ Upside Down with a demogorgon serving as the chair umpire.

Think of the possibilities! Because Netflix executives surely have.

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