If LIV Golf is going to achieve long-term success, they need a TV deal. And according to CEO Greg Norman, the Saudi-funded tour is moving closer toward finding that network distribution partner.
On Wednesday, Chicago’s ESPN 1000 morning hosts David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood were broadcasting from the site of this weekend’s LIV Golf event at Rich Harvest Farms. Kaplan and Hood welcomed Norman to the show and asked the Hall of Fame golfer about the status of LIV finding a TV partner.
“Well, yeah, I can’t comment on that quite honestly,” Norman (seen above on Sept. 3 at the series’ event in Boston) told the Chicago sports radio station. “All I can tell you is that the interest coming across our plate right now is enormous.
“We’re talking to four different networks,” he continued. “And live conversations where offers are being put on the table. Because [the networks] can see the value of our product, they can see what we’re delivering in the four-and-a-half-hour window.”
Currently, LIV Golf airs for free on YouTube, where viewership numbers have been less than impressive to start. According to Apex Marketing, the first round of LIV’s inaugural event garnered 94,000 viewers on YouTube and Round 2 attracted an audience of 54,000.
Norman did not hint at which networks LIV has had conversations with. But considering CBS, NBC, ESPN and Turner each have ties to the PGA Tour, it’s hard to believe any of them would have serious interest in the Saudi-backed golf league. Fox continues to sound like the most logical landing spot, but if the network is bidding against itself, it would be in Norman’s best interest to present LIV as garnering “enormous” interest from several suitors.
Because LIV Golf is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), some networks, announcers, golfers and corporations have been hesitant to partner with a sports league tied to a government known to commit deplorable human rights violations. Others, however, see LIV’s deep pockets and are willing to help the Saudi royal family sportswash their abuses in return for a big payday.
It seems inevitable that a network will partner with LIV, especially considering the star power the league boasts. But until a deal is reached, Norman will continue to hype LIV’s “enormous” interest in hopes of creating a bidding war.
[ESPN 1000; photo from Richard Cashin/USA Today Sports]