Netflix snags SAG Awards live streaming deal

Netflix is diving into live streaming, with plans to host the annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards on its platform starting in 2024 – thanks to a new multi-year agreement between Netflix and the SAG-AFTRA union.

Before the deal kicks in, Netflix will live stream this year’s awards ceremony on its YouTube channel. The 2023 SAG Awards are scheduled for Sunday, February 26 at 8 p.m. ET. The streamer will also promote the event via social media.

This year marks Netflix’s initial step into the live streaming space. Following the SAG event, Netflix will stream a new Chris Rock stand-up comedy special on March 4.

“The SAG Awards are beloved by the creative community and viewers alike, and now even more fans around the world will be able to celebrate these talented actors,” stated Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s head of global TV. “As we begin to explore live streaming on Netflix, we look forward to partnering with SAG-AFTRA to elevate and expand this special ceremony as a global live event in 2024 and the years to come.”

As for SAG-AFTRA, the actors guild is leveraging its partnership with Netflix to expand the award show’s global audience, according to SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

“As the only televised awards program exclusively honoring the performances of actors, whose work is admired by millions of fans, the SAG Awards are a unique and cherished part of the entertainment universe,” stated Crabtree-Ireland.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has expressed confidence about the service’s live streaming capabilities, and that they are built on an existing framework.

“We did a lot of the plumbing work on live over the last couple of years already,” Sarandos said at a UBS investor conference in December. “So the technology was there for us. We just hadn’t really tested it out.”

Although sports has been regarded as the most popular livestreamed genre, Netflix is delving more into the entertainment category for its events. Sarandos last month said while the streamer isn’t “anti-sports,” it doesn’t see a profit path to pursuing live sports rights – but that stance could change in the future, he acknowledged. Netflix last year was reportedly a bidder for Formula One rights in the U.S., which were renewed by Disney’s ESPN.

Netflix getting the SAG awards is indicative of live events gradually shifting to streaming services, according to Matthew Engstrom, VP of marketing at Digital Remedy. He argued Netflix can use live streaming to bolster its new ad-supported tier.

“It's an essential move in order to continue to garner younger audiences and build fans for the future,” stated Engstrom. “For Netflix, this is a big opportunity for ad-supported programming as Live TV is less likely to be viewed time-shifted. Netflix now offers a big tentpole media event more likely to be watched live to advertisers looking to take advantage of an ad-supported platform.”