For a start-up LIV Golf tour backed by Saudi Arabia, the strategy to keep the best golfers like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson away from the prestige and stability of the PGA Tour was simple: Offer cash and lots of money.
The arrival of the new tour and the flight of the PGA Tour stars were major disruptions in the stable and even stable sport. However, after months of waiting, the first LIV event was not televised in the United States when it took place outside London last weekend. And it is unlikely that any American network will soon broadcast LIV events.
The reason is that the networks are happy to broadcast the PGA Tour.
Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports, the largest golf club in the United States, said, “We are located in this country as a golf home.” “Not only are we happy to be here, but we are incredibly happy to be where we are.”
Some golfers could not resist the temptation of a new tour, the events of which were shorter than the PGA Tour (three days instead of four) and offered large payouts, with individual winners sharing $ 4 million and members of the winning teams sharing $ 3 million. more than most PGA Tour events. Even the last place winners get $ 120,000; PGA Tour players who do not stop after two rounds do not get anything.
However, the LIV tour did not reach anywhere with those who covered the events in the United States. LIV Golf representatives spoke with most American broadcasters, but according to those familiar with the discussions, they did not discuss the media rights agreement with any of them. LIV put forward the idea of gaining time to show the London tournament on Fox – an inversion of the normal business relationship in which a media company pays a sports organization to show its event – but the discussions did not go far.
Finally, the London tournament was not on American Broadcasting TV or popular sports broadcasters such as Peacock and ESPN +. Instead, golf enthusiasts could watch it without advertising on the DAZN broadcast service, YouTube, Facebook or LIV Golf.
The limited number of viewers indicates that most of them did not. According to sports and entertainment analytics firm Apex Marketing, the final stage of the London event attracted an average of 68,761 viewers on YouTube and less than 5,000 on Facebook. That same weekend, 812,000 viewers watched the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open final on the Golf Channel, and 2.78 million viewers watched as the coverage shifted to CBS.
The lack of an agreement on media rights would normally threaten the survival of the new sports league. However, LIV Golf is not an imperative commercial entity. It is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund and is part of a larger effort to improve the kingdom’s image in the world. Players who joined the LIV tour were accused of helping “sports wash” Human rights abuses have been reported in Saudi Arabia, including the killing of journalist Jamal Qashiqchi.
LIV did not respond to a request for comment.
However, NBC and other broadcasters have a long list of reasons to avoid a new initiative, other than damage to reputation.
The main obstacle to LIV’s entry into the United States is that most major media companies are investing heavily in the success of its rival, the PGA Tour. NBC, CBS and ESPN together in the first year of a nine-year, $ 6 billion deal to show the PGA Tour in the United States, Warner Bros. Discovery (owner of TNT and TBS) pays PGA Tour $ 2 billion to show the tour to the whole world.
According to people familiar with the deals, who spoke anonymously to discuss personal contracts, media companies are not limited by the contract to showing LIV. However, they believe that this will divert attention from the tour, which they spent billions.
Fox, who has a history of taking risks in sports (currently investing in spring football), may seem like a good candidate to join LIV, but Fox doesn’t play any golf and that’s the design. The network had the right to broadcast the US Open until 2026, but paid NBC to relinquish those rights.
Even if the networks want a chance at LIV Golf, logistical problems will be significant. Golf monopolizes all weekends throughout the year, and production is more expensive than arena and stadium-based sports. (Golf presents a particularly difficult hurdle for Fox, which rarely puts the sport at the service of Tubi Stream, meaning it’s hard to play golf when the tables collide.)
Until recently, LIV Golf did not have any stars on board, and it is unknown whether it will attract enough high-level golfers to make its events more attractive to fans. Tour support questions they were worried for those who join.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a televised speech: “I ask any player who has left or any player who is considering leaving, ‘Did you have to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?’
Players who signed a contract with LIV were expelled from the PGA Tour, although this could soon lead to litigation. The players were also released by sponsors either because of ties to Saudi Arabia or because the companies did not want to support golfers competing in one round.
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However, many participants in the PGA Tour media deal acknowledged that interest in the PGA Tour would decline if LIV attracted more golfers. They believe that the charm of the PGA Tour is that the world’s best golfers compete against each other every weekend, and LIV is a direct threat to that.
The future of LIV may depend in part on whether LIV players are allowed to play in the four major golf tournaments – none of which are controlled by the PGA Tour. Augusta National Golf Club hosts Masters; The United States Golf Association hosts the US Open; The American Professional Golfers Association holds the PGA Championship; and R&A enters the British Open.
If the major sports are allowed to compete, LIV golfers could earn bigger salaries in the LIV tour, which requires less tax, as they continue to play in legacy-defining events in front of millions of fans.
“Majors are extremely important to professional golfers, and they will be a major variable whether they succeed or not,” said David Levy, former president of Turner Sports, which created the high-value golf show Match.
This year’s third major, the US Open, is being held this weekend at the Country Club in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, and features LIV golfers. This was reported by USGA, which organizes the tournament carefully prepared statement said any golfer who qualified last week would be allowed to compete. However, USGA said its decision “should not be interpreted as USGA supporting an alternative organizing body” and on Wednesday the organization’s chief executive Mike Whan said he could anticipate a day when players would not be allowed to enter the US Open. according to which tour they came from.
Other grounds did not say that LIV golfers would be deterred from the event. Also, these tournaments did not say that they would continue to extend lifelong invitations to the players who won them. (Mickelson, for example, has a lifetime release from the Masters and PGA Championships.) Decisions are expected this fall and winter as plans for tournaments in 2023 are strengthened.
The neglected golf course, the Official World Golf Rating, is also expected to be affected. The organization gives golfers rating points based on their performance and uses those rankings to determine the suitability of tournaments. Currently, LIV golfers do not receive rating points, which means that they will inevitably fall in the world rankings and lose the right to compete in major events.
LIV, said it would submit an application to sort out the events. The application will be considered by the board of the Official World Golf Ranking, chaired by former British professional golfer Peter Dawson. The council also includes representatives from each of the four specialties, along with the PGA Tour, the European Tour and the International Federation of PGA Tours, an umbrella organization for professional golf tours.
Although the PGA Tour almost voted against the application of LIV, it is less clear how other rounds will vote. Even if they say no, representatives from all four major sports will vote for LIV golfers to score points – and therefore say they are comfortable with LIV golfers competing at their events – LIV Golf can succeed in attracting more golfers.