About Boardroom

Boardroom is a sports, media and entertainment brand co-founded by Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman and focused on the intersection of sports and entertainment. Boardroom’s flagship media arm features premium video/audio, editorial, daily and weekly newsletters, showcasing how athletes, executives, musicians and creators are moving the business world forward. Boardroom’s ecosystem encompasses B2B events and experiences (such as its renowned NBA and WNBA All-Star events) as well as ticketed conferences such as Game Plan in partnership with CNBC. Our advisory arm serves to consult and connect athletes, brands and executives with our broader network and initiatives.

Recent film and TV projects also under the Boardroom umbrella include the Academy Award-winning Two Distant Strangers (Netflix), the critically acclaimed scripted series SWAGGER (Apple TV+) and Emmy-nominated documentary NYC Point Gods (Showtime).

Boardroom’s sister company, Boardroom Sports Holdings, features investments in emerging sports teams and leagues, including the Major League Pickleball team, the Brooklyn Aces, NWSL champions Gotham FC, and MLS’ Philadelphia Union.

All Rights Reserved. 2022.

Was The Netflix Slam a Glimpse of the Future of Live Sports at the Streaming Giant?

Last Updated: March 6, 2024
Boardroom went behind the scenes at the Netflix Slam between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz as it begins to broadcast more live events.

The tennis world converged on Las Vegas Sunday for the Netflix Slam, a live match between legendary Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, one of the first live events the streaming giant has ever attempted.

It was Netflix’s second live sports event in five months, both taking place in Vegas and both quasi-extensions of popular documentary programming. The Netflix Cup golf match paired pro golfers from its Full Swing series and Formula 1 drivers from its ubiquitous Drive To Survive series. Alcaraz has previously appeared on the network’s Break Point series.

Just over a week after airing Hollywood’s SAG Awards live, it’s the shortest time between live events in Netflix‘s history.

“Each one of these is about learning and getting better,” Gabe Spitzer, Vice President of Nonfiction Sports at Netflix, told Boardroom on Saturday. “We just want to make a fun, exciting, entertaining event.” 

Leading into Sunday’s big event at Mandalay Bay’s Michelob Ultra Arena, billboards all over the Las Vegas Strip hyped the match of tennis greats like actors on a marquee promoting a buzzy new TV show or movie. It came as no surprise, then, when Saturday’s introductory press conference with Nadal, Alcaraz, and Vegas native Andre Agassi — preceding one in Spanish — had journalists from People, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, E! News, and The Ankler, despite Netflix still being far more well-known for its TVs and movies than for its sports coverage.

Netflix Slam
(Chris Unger / Getty Images)

Despite competing with a pair of Australian pro rugby matches Saturday at Allegiant Stadium that began its regular season, with tens of thousands of Aussies trekking to a gusty desert that delayed flights all weekend, the trio of tennis superstars expressed how vital these tennis exhibition matches are.

“It’s an obligation to promote our sport,” Nadal told Boardroom, “especially in places where professional matches aren’t coming.”

Agassi went a step further, loving the Netflix format because it allows for tennis to be discussed in ways that aren’t allowed on traditional linear networks beholden to soundbites and commercial breaks. Netflix’s delivery mechanism, he said, provides a more complete picture both to dedicated tennis fans who get more uninterrupted access to the sport they love and offers casual fans how much more is actually going on than on the surface.


A weekly newsletter that goes long on the biggest stories in sports business, from Boardroom’s Shlomo Sprung.

Sent weekly on Fridays

Sunday morning, a breakfast reception for VIPs and guests inside a Mandalay Bay restaurant blocked off for the weekend was followed by attendees receiving green envelopes containing a green wristband and tickets to the event. After passing through a chaotic security line to get in, the wristbands got guests into the Netflix Sports Club, a luxurious large room decorated with vintage pictures of its aforementioned flagship sports docuseries with plenty of hors d’oeuvre, cocktails like the US Open staple honey deuce, and a massively long line to receive free custom merch like Netflix Slam sweaters and towels.

Media were generously sat in the arena’s third row in time for a pair of tune-up events.

First, the Bryan Brothers, Genie Bouchard, and Asia Muhammad competed in a set of doubles, and then Taylor Fritz beat out Jon Isner, Sam Querry, and Francis Tiafoe in an Ace Challenge featuring three rounds of the Americans trying to hit the fastest serve, an exhibition event that could be tennis’ answer to the NBA’s 3-Point Contest or MLB’s Home Run Derby. Fritz’s fastest serve came in at a blistering 139 miles per hour.

Netflix Slam
Fritz competes in the Ace Challenge during Netflix Slam over the weekend. (Chris Unger / Getty Images)

Celebrities from Hollywood and sports like Charlize Theron, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas, Colin Kaepernick, Jordan Love, Lindsey Vonn, and a heavy Los Angeles Rams contingent of Sean McVay, Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Puka Nacua sat down to watch Nadal and Alcaraz receive introductions onto the court similar to what boxers or UFC fighters normally receive. While we couldn’t figure out how much Netflix paid out to the players and to FullDay productions for producing the event, it’s clear that no expense was spared.

Several boom mics bordered each baseline to pick up every discernible sound. Rail cams on either side of the arena picked up every fault, and blistering shot down the line. And, of course, the trusty sky cam hovered above the action to make sure every crevice of the court could be covered. The English language commentary team of Agassi, Andy Roddick, Patrick McEnroe, Mary Joe Fernandez, Jim Courier, and Kay Adams have talent that would rival coverage of any tennis major, with in-match interviews in both English and Spanish you’d never get during a regular tournament.

A couple of notable technical snafus that were noticed, though they far from overshadowed a tremendous match. During the first game, you could hear the TV commentary over the loudspeakers in between points, which drew a chuckle out of Nadal and the fans but probably spooked Netflix execs from the outset. Netflix quickly resolved the issue. And during a few of the replay challenges, the results of the calls were delayed on the scoreboard, eliciting joking boos from the sold-out crowd of 9,489.

After not having played a competitive match for more than two months, some feared that Nadal wouldn’t be fit and Alcaraz would easily take both sets as they both prepared for the upcoming ATP tournament at Indian Wells. Nadal quickly swatted away those concerns, taking four of the first five games and winning the first set 6-3.

However, the 22-time Grand Slam champion began to run out of steam in the second set, quickly going down a pair of breaks and falling to Alcaraz, 6-4. In the interest of time, Netflix decided that instead of a third set, there would be a tiebreaker up to 10, win by two. For the purposes of dramatic television and riveting tennis, it proved a shrewd choice.

Netflix Slam
Alcaraz hits it to Nadal during the Netflix Slam. (David Becker / Getty Images)

Nadal saved five match points, going back and forth to the pro-Rafa crowd’s delight before Alcaraz prevailed, 14-12. Celebrities and guests got their final glimpses of these sporting supernovas before heading back downstairs to the Netflix Sports Club for more cocktails and small bites, with both the Hollywood and sports media wondering if and when the next Netflix Slam would take place.

“We’re always open to doing more if the right opportunity arises,” Spitzer said Saturday, alluding to live sports specials that feel different and unique with the ability to bring in the casual sports fan. “We’ve only had four or five events before this, so honestly, we’re just excited to have the capability and figure out how live can enhance entertainment for our members.” 

The fans watching at home were likely highly entertained by what they saw Sunday in Las Vegas. The scale and scope of which Netflix will air live broadcasts in sports and other genres will be determined over time as the streamer slowly dips its proverbial toes into previously uncharted waters.

More Media:

Shlomo Sprung

Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.