Netflix Will Likely Surpass ESPN in 2018 with the Biggest Content Budget in Television

“We’ll [Netflix] be at the top of the list soon, probably by next year, but definitely by the end of this decade.”

Live sporting events are some of the most expensive pieces of content for television networks. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that ESPN spends well above any other network when it comes to content.

Currently, ESPN is planning on spending about $7.3 billion dollars in 2017 on content, with the biggest expenses coming from things like Monday Night Football, NBA and MLB games, and an assortment of other sports-related shows.

It didn’t seem likely that any other television network, or television-like entertainment service would be catching up anytime soon, but some of our sources are suggesting that 2018 will see a new king atop of the television budget throne.

While no exact number is available, our source familiar with the matter at Netflix said, “we’ll be at the top of the list soon, probably by next year, and definitely by the end of this decade.”

Reed Hastings confirmed something along these lines this week, telling CNBC that their budget is going to go up “a lot” in the near future.

If Netflix remains on its current growth trajectory, and all signs are pointing that this will be the case, it seems very likely that it will overtake ESPN as the biggest spender on content rights and ownership next year, leaving everyone else in the dust. In 2017, Netflix plans to spend just north of $6 billion dollars on their own content and the rights to stream third party content, with growth plans that will likely put them between $7.5 and $8 billion dollars per year over the next few years.

This comes at a time where ESPN has been looking for ways to cut costs, as annually they are currently spending close to $80 a year per subscriber, while Netflix is only spending $59 a year per subscriber. ESPN is losing subscribers by the millions every year and struggling to retain talent, with a recent series of layoffs that saw some of their most recognizable faces let go.

And while Netflix is definitely continuing to grow, they are facing growing competition, with Hulu expanding, Amazon trying everything it possibly can with a bankroll bigger than some small countries, and major cable trying their own “skinny bundles” to play ball in the streaming market. If they don’t continue to spend big on building an original content library, it could be death by a thousand cuts if subscribers start to defect to other services. So far though, they continue strong growth trajectories, and bigger budgets should only allow this to continue, and easily put the crown on their heads.