A brand new golf league that’s funded by Saudi Arabia is looking for a top-tier broadcaster to air its video games within the US because it tries to disrupt the game’s established tour.
LIV Golf has been pitching itself to American tv firms in a roadshow in latest weeks. However the course of is clouded by scepticism over the upstart which has torn aside skilled golf this yr. LIV is financed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and has been championed by former US president Donald Trump, who hosted a event at his New Jersey golf course this summer season.
LIV has up to now few weeks held talks with many US broadcasters, together with Warner Bros Discovery and Fox, in response to folks conversant in the matter. As discussions keep it up, a handful of potential companions have emerged, together with a start-up streaming service and a big proprietor of broadcast tv stations, these folks mentioned.
Nonetheless, a number of the largest broadcasters — akin to CBS, NBC and ABC — will not be fascinated with LIV as a result of they’re already locked into long run contracts with the PGA Tour, the flagship American golf circuit that wishes to defend its command of the game, in response to folks conversant in the discussions.
“Clearly PGA is PGA, they’re not some bizarre Saudi factor”, mentioned an government at a big US broadcaster.
LIV has beforehand approached Apple, which not too long ago flung itself deeper into sports activities with a $2.5bn deal to air Main League Soccer, however the tech big didn’t reply, mentioned an individual conversant in the matter.
Discovering broadcast companions is vital to establishing LIV as a competitor to the PGA Tour, as the 2 teams conflict over the way forward for golf. LIV desires to disrupt the centuries-old sport, shortening the size of video games and attempting to enchantment to youthful viewers.
Since beginning its inaugural season this summer season, LIV has aired its occasions at no cost on YouTube and area of interest streaming websites like DAZN. However they don’t seem to be accessible to look at on any main tv channels or streaming providers within the US, the most important sports activities market on the planet and residential to hundreds of thousands of golf followers.
Fox has been rumoured because the more than likely place to indicate the LIV league as a result of it doesn’t at present air any golf from the PGA Tour. LIV chief government Greg Norman is a longtime pal of Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox.
Nonetheless, the 2 sides haven’t superior talks substantively since Fox initially heard LIV’s pitch three weeks in the past, in response to folks conversant in the matter.
LIV has mentioned paying Fox to air its tournaments, GolfWeek first reported, a reversal of ordinary offers through which TV channels pay sports activities leagues to indicate their occasions. A so-called “time-buy” is typically utilized by sports activities attempting to ascertain themselves by shopping for airtime.
A time-buy was certainly one of a number of choices mentioned and no deal has been agreed or is imminent, mentioned folks conversant in the matter. Fox declined to remark.
LIV desires to safe its broadcast deal by the top of this yr. It mentioned that it’s in “energetic discussions with a number of firms” to broadcast the league.
An individual near LIV says the group had at all times considered this yr’s inaugural season as a advertising alternative to show its price to potential companions, in order that it may lock in media rights offers for 2023. Time-buys are a “widespread follow” in such situations, the individual mentioned.
Critics of LIV allege that Saudi Arabia is utilizing sports activities to attempt to soften its fame for human rights violations. “I believe it’s important to be dwelling underneath a rock to not know that there are important implications,” Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, mentioned in June. “Have you ever ever needed to apologise for being a member of the PGA Tour?”.
Nonetheless, golfers akin to Phil Mickelson joined the LIV tour, lured by a reported $200mn payout.
An individual near LIV mentioned the group will not be seeing any backlash to its affiliation with Saudi Arabia. “We’re a golf league, we’re not a authorities”, the individual mentioned.
Golf has traditionally been a distinct segment sport within the US, missing the blockbuster tv audiences that American soccer or basketball entice. The ultimate spherical of this yr’s PGA championship drew 5.3mn viewers — a tenth of that of the NFL’s Tremendous Bowl and about half of the NBA finals.
However it punches above its weight with advertisers as a result of they view it as a method to attain wealthier audiences. BMW and Rolex have been longtime sponsors for large golf collection.
Trump has pressed gamers to defect from the PGA Tour and be a part of LIV, urging golfers to “take the cash now” on his social media community, Fact Social. The collection is about to complete its inaugural season later this month at Trump’s Doral golf course in Florida, the place the profitable crew will take dwelling $16mn.