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The golf revolution will not be televised -- or streamed -- by major broadcasters, at least.
Apple and Amazon passed on the chance to broadcast the nascent, controversial LIV Golf tour, sources confirmed to The Wall Street Journal Thursday, leaving the multibillion-dollar upstart without a streaming or broadcasting home.
LIV and Let Die
In just a few months, LIV Golf has racked up more controversy than a lifetime's worth of Tiger Woods misadventures off the greens. Launched earlier this year with financing from Saudi Arabia's sovereign-wealth fund, the tour has announced $2 billion in investments to woo the world's top players away from the more established PGA Tour. Those investments include record-breaking contracts with cash guarantees to draw superstars Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, and Phil Mickelson. The $25 million prize money for LIV events also makes PGA winnings look like a few folded bills for John Daly's latest beer run.
The big spending hasn't helped LIV strike a lucrative broadcasting deal, the core revenue generator for every major professional sports league -- or overcome criticism that its Saudi backing makes it a soft power play for a regime with a notorious human rights record. So far, the major broadcast players LIV has approached have all said no:
- In addition to Apple and Amazon, which have both signed deals with sports leagues for their respective streaming platforms, the LIV tour has also been unable to gain traction with ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox, the WSJ's sources said. A LIV executive said the tour will auction its rights sometime in advance of its first full season in 2023 -- currently events can be seen free on Alphabet-owned YouTube and on the subscription-based sports streaming service DAZN.
- The PGA's current deal with CBS and NBC, which runs until 2030, values its rights at $700 million per year. "We're bullish about our prospects given our player field and the quality of our product," Will Staeger, LIV's chief media officer, told the WSJ -- even the PGA could probably, through clenched teeth, admit to the quality of the player field.
Jumping Through Hulu Hoops: Elsewhere in the streaming world, Disney CEO Bob Chapek told the Financial Times this week that he wanted to speed up the acquisition of Comcast's one-third stake in streaming service Hulu, and claimed investors have grown more pessimistic about streaming, hinting at a declining valuation. But Comcast CEO Brian Roberts fired back at a Goldman Sachs conference on Wednesday, insisting Hulu, which has 46 million subscribers, is worth more than the $27.5 billion minimum valuation it agreed to with Disney, which owns the other two-thirds of the company, in 2019. This one's too big a deal to try to settle on the links.