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Report: LIV Golf League Unable to Sell Media Rights, Nearing Deal to Pay Fox Sports 1 to Air Tournaments

David Satin

Media rights agreements are usually very lucrative for sports leagues. They involve media companies paying agreed-upon sums to air the league’s games, and leagues with big viewership numbers can command a massive price. For example, the NFL’s last media rights deal, which pays out over a course of 10 years, was for a total of $110 billion.

The LIV Golf league, on the other hand, has been stuck in a sand trap regarding its media rights. The upstart league attempted to sell its broadcast rights to just about everyone in the sports media world, including Apple and Amazon. No backers have emerged, and now the league has decided to take the unusual step of paying a network to air its tournaments instead of getting paid to do so.

That’s according to Golfweek, who identified FS1 as the channel which could be on the verge of carry LIV tournaments. The LIV is funded by the Saudi Arabian government’s Public Investment Fund, which has led carriers to be wary of the optics issues that would almost certainly come with airing the tournaments. Despite those issues, LIV CEO Greg Norman insisted in recent weeks that the league was still fielding options.

“We’re talking to four different networks, and live conversations where offers are being put on the table,” he told ESPN. “They can see what we’re delivering.”

But Golfweek reports that the LIV struck out with NBC, CBS, Disney, Apple, and Amazon. Fox Sports came to the table only at the behest of Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch. Jared Kushner has also been involved in trying to promote the league after his company Affinity Partners received a $2 billion investment from the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

According to Golfweek, one source with knowledge of the situation said, “There were people at Fox who wanted nothing to do with this. They were forced to do it.”

The LIV also requested that the second year of its deal be accompanied by a rights fee and a guaranteed time slot on network TV, but both requests were rejected by FOX. It will also fall to LIV to produce its own broadcasts and secure advertisers, both of which normally fall to the broadcast partner.

Accusations of sports-washing have and will continue to follow the LIV. Many have pointed to Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and other issues as reasons not to support the LIV, which explains the reticence of companies to get involved with the league. Existing network partnerships with the PGA Tour — who has banned players who have played in LIV events — also have prevented broadcasters from getting into business with the upstart tour.

The deal between the LIV and FS1 is nearing completion, but it’s currently unclear if it will start in 2022 or 2023. LIV has three remaining events scheduled for this year; all will be played next month, in Bangkok, Thailand; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and at Trump Doral in Miami.

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