Writing about LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed sportswashing venture designed not to make money but to launder an entire regime’s reputation over time, is challenging.
It’s not just about the bots that inevitably find any negative coverage, or even worse, the real people who either can’t or won’t comprehend the mission behind the entire league, even though the government put it all up on a website for everyone to read.
Oh look, there is more. https://t.co/QjubIDtfJj
— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) June 10, 2022
Even beyond the moral repercussions here, it’s often hard to get people accustomed to a pretty standard version of business (spend money to make money) to understand that there’s a very different version of that at play here: spend money and then spend more money and then spend even more money, and if any money is made at all then it’s a bonus, but also we’re probably going to just spend even more money.
To many, that’s ridiculous. Which makes sense! It’s hard to understand a bottomless pit of money, and just as hard to imagine a government spending it in an effort to repair their own image and distract from a history (and almost certainly a future) of human rights violations.
After two days of actual competition, though, we at least have a data point that should help people get past that understandable cognitive dissonance. For all the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on this league, for all the big names signed up, for all the various bluster about a new format and team play and more, we have two rounds of YouTube stream data to look at to gauge interest.
Final average viewership numbers for LIV Golf on YouTube:
Round 1: 94,000 Viewers
Round 2: 54,000 Viewers
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) June 10, 2022
Not great. But, predictable! Again, nothing about this is designed to be a short-term win. It’s going to be impossibly dead in just about every way, even once more recognizable names like Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed start playing in the American-based events.
Fan dispatch from the ground pic.twitter.com/b4hsH7bcpJ
— TheShotgunStart (@TheShotgunStart) June 10, 2022
Inasmuch as it’s about creating a viable golf worldwide golf league, that’s not going to happen for some time. (If it happens at all, it will be by spending so much money it drives the PGA Tour essentially out of business, leaving LIV as the only possible place for top players to play. The Uber model of disrupting the taxi industry, basically.)
The whole product, though: bad. Some of the twists are worth considering in other leagues; the shotgun start format might be a solid way to ensure maximum action, although networks right now aren’t great at following that many key players on the course at once anyway, especially with the current commercial load on PGA Tour broadcasts.
But 54,000 viewers on day 2 is a pretty stark example of just how much money the people behind this thing are willing to flush in an effort to maybe one day have a glimmer of respectability.
Based on the estimated amounts they’ve spent, that’s roughly $9,000+ per viewer for Friday.
Reputation laundering ain’t cheap. https://t.co/8gKLDD1l9T
— Eamon Lynch (@eamonlynch) June 10, 2022
It’s hilarious, yes, but it’s also just impossibly dispiriting to know that it’s not going to have any impact at all on LIV’s spending outlay or future strategy. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson reportedly have four-year contracts.
It’s not going away before then, probably not going away for longer after that. And who knows what men’s professional golf will look like at that point?