As LIV Golf preps for their second ever tournament, this weekend outside Portland, Oregon, their leadership is making the media rounds.
That includes a piece at Sports Business Journal by Eric Prisbell, who offered LIV execs the chance to speak anonymously. You know, the kind of thing that most sporting league officials feel the need to do when promoting the venture they work for. Totally normal, nothing to see here, definitely not people who don’t want their names openly associated with what they’re doing on a daily basis.
There’s a lot in the piece, but focusing on the media side there’s this quote about LIV’s battle for distribution.
Beyond tending to the product and players, securing a media rights deal is the top priority, sources said. That’s no easy task, especially with CBS, ESPN and NBC in the first year of a nine-year, $6 billion-plus deal with the PGA Tour, and Fox showing no appetite for golf. Regardless of headwinds, the chances that LIV Golf events will be broadcast on either linear or OTT/streaming platforms in 2023, a LIV executive said, is “very high. We absolutely know we need TV partners.”
They reportedly tried to buy time on FOX for their first event outside London, but were forced to settle for streaming on YouTube and other outlets. The audience was very underwhelming, with an estimated 54,000 people watching the second day. Not great!
Reading the whole thing it feels a lot more like executives who have to go out and push the idea that LIV is actually (seriously, for real, why are you laughing) a venture designed to become profitable one day, as opposed to the Saudi government flushing a ton of money in an effort to sportswash their human rights record. Their chances of landing an American linear television provider seem slim, given the market, but given the amount of money they’re pushing up against that particular barrier to entry it feels inevitable that they’ll find some sort of distribution at some point, even if it’s just a random streaming provider.
This might have been the best part of the whole piece:
“PIF is over a half-trillion-dollar fund,” one executive said. “They haven’t gotten there by making investments that are not prudent. The thinking is exactly that: We are going to be profitable.”
The idea that the Saudi-funded PIF, backed by the royal family’s immense wealth, started as some kind of small seed fund that just kept making the right bets is patently absurd. But that’s the kind of thing people on the LIV side have to say with a straight face if they don’t want to puncture the illusion or disappoint their bosses.
In that context, it becomes more clear why they’d want to remain anonymous.