Saudi-backed LIV Golf denied reports on Tuesday that it was close to a US television deal to buy airtime on FS1.
In a story published Tuesday night, Golf Week cited multiple sources it did not identify as saying the deal was still being finalized.
In a statement to a Chicago radio station two weeks ago, LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman said, “We’re talking to four different networks, and it contradicts what they’ve said in live conversations where offers are on the table. You can see what we have to offer.”
LIV Golf released a statement saying Golfweek’s report was “incomplete and inaccurate” and that it was ahead of schedule in its first year, including areas such as broadcast rights.
“As we have previously stated, LIV Golf is beginning the process and is actively discussing with several companies about distributing the LIV Golf League,” the statement said. Given that we are still in negotiations with several media outlets, we caution that no one should jump to any conclusions about media rights.
Fox Sports declined to comment.
Networks typically pay rights fees to broadcast sports. The PGA Tour, for example, this year launched an expanded media rights deal to have the tournament aired on CBS, NBC, Golf Channel and ESPN+. The nine-year contract is worth approximately $7 billion.
Golfweek reports that LIV Golf will pay for the slot and be responsible for production costs and any advertising sold. In some buyouts, the deal includes a few promotional spots to let viewers know when it’s airing.
But any deal, even a time purchase, would give LIV Golf what it wants most – TV viewership on an American online channel. The league pays a reported $150 million in signing fees to attract players, and each tournament offers $25 million in prize money. It has no visible corporate support.
Acquiring the major networks appears to be taking a long time because of their deal with the PGA Tour and antagonism among rival circuits, with LIV Golf’s deep-pocketed source — Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund — drawing opposition from some. Races held in America during the summer.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple and Amazon were not interested.
LIV Golf is only featured on its YouTube channel, Facebook and website, and viewership is modest.
The series is being played in Thailand and Saudi Arabia next month before concluding the season opener with the $50 million Team Championship near Miami. The 54-hole event was brought to a conclusion on Sunday.
While LIV Golf said it will have a full schedule, it was unclear whether any television deal would begin in Miami Oct. 28-30 or wait until 2023. The 2023 schedule won’t be released until November.
If the buy period is with FS1, there could be problems with the cable network’s steady diet of college football on Saturdays in September and October.
Golfweek reported that LIV wanted a second year of rights payments and a guaranteed time slot for any deal, but Fox wasn’t interested.
LIV Golf launched in early June and now 12 of the world’s top 50 players, notably Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith, officially joined LIV Golf a month after winning the Open Championship.