LIV Golf ‘will buy airtime on Fox Sports after networks balked at Saudi-backed tour’s first TV deal’

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Rather than selling its media rights, the upstart LIV Golf tour will instead be buying airtime on Fox Sports 1 to broadcast its competitions.

The Saudi-backed golf series is on the verge paying the Rupert Murdoch-owned sports network for airtime after NBC, CBS, ESPN, Apple and Amazon all balked at buying LIV Golf’s first media contract, multiple sources told Golfweek. One source added that Fox Sports only got involved at the behest of Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s son and the CEO of Fox Corp.

‘There were people at Fox who wanted nothing to do with this,’ the source told Golfweek. ‘They were forced to do it.’

Team Captain Cameron Smith of Punch GC poses with Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, after winning the individual title during Day Three of the LIV Golf Invitational - Chicago at Rich Harvest Farms on September 18

Team Captain Cameron Smith of Punch GC poses with Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf, after winning the individual title during Day Three of the LIV Golf Invitational – Chicago at Rich Harvest Farms on September 18

Team Captain Phil Mickelson of Hy Flyers GC putts on the 18th green during Day Two of the LIV Golf Invitational - Chicago at Rich Harvest Farms on September 17, 2022 in Sugar Grove, Illinois. LIV Golf events have been free to the public as the tour hopes to build a following

Team Captain Phil Mickelson of Hy Flyers GC putts on the 18th green during Day Two of the LIV Golf Invitational – Chicago at Rich Harvest Farms on September 17, 2022 in Sugar Grove, Illinois. LIV Golf events have been free to the public as the tour hopes to build a following

This latest development comes after Greg Norman, the legendary PGA player-turned LIV Golf CEO, gave a vastly different picture of negotiations to ESPN.

‘We’re talking to four different networks, and live conversations where offers are being put on the table,’ he told ESPN two weeks ago. ‘They can see what we’re delivering.’

LIV Golf has been at the center of controversy in the golf world, not only because it’s been paying PGA players to defect, but also because the new tour is financed by the controversial Saudi Arabian regime’s Public Investment Fund.

That is the same fund that provided $2 billion to a private equity firm owned by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, in 2021. Since then, Kushner has attempted to broker a media rights deal on behalf of LIV Golf, but never finalized anything, according to an August article by Sports Business Journal.

‘One phone call,’ a source familiar with the call told SBJ. ‘Totally informal. It lasted a very short amount of time to make an introduction.’

A spokesman for Kushner told DailyMail.com he would verify that report with his client before commenting.

LIV Golf is also connected to Trump through his courses. He’s already hosted one tour event at his club in New Jersey and will host the season finale at his course in Miami next month.

Former US President Donald J. Trump (L), Saudi businessman Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan (C), and Jared Kushner (R) watch the first round of the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational, part of the new LIV Golf Invitational Series, at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey

Former US President Donald J. Trump (L), Saudi businessman Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan (C), and Jared Kushner (R) watch the first round of the LIV Golf Bedminster invitational, part of the new LIV Golf Invitational Series, at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey

LIV Golf has been at the center of controversy in the golf world, not only because it's been paying PGA players to defect, but also because the new tour is financed by the controversial Saudi Arabian regime's Public Investment Fund. That is the same fund that provided $2 billion to a private equity firm owned by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law, in 2021. Since then, Kushner has attempted to broker a media rights deal on behalf of LIV Golf, but never finalized anything, according to an August article by Sports Business Journal

LIV Golf has been at the center of controversy in the golf world, not only because it’s been paying PGA players to defect, but also because the new tour is financed by the controversial Saudi Arabian regime’s Public Investment Fund. That is the same fund that provided $2 billion to a private equity firm owned by Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, in 2021. Since then, Kushner has attempted to broker a media rights deal on behalf of LIV Golf, but never finalized anything, according to an August article by Sports Business Journal

LIV Golf’s first season has been played without a media contract in place. Instead, LIV has been showing its team-based tournaments on its own website and YouTube. Circuit executives previously told the Wall Street Journal that events were made free to the public so that the tour could prove its legitimacy with fans and networks, alike.

That plan did not come to fruition as major US networks and streaming services all backed off LIV Golf, not only according to Golfweek and the Journal.

Buying airtime is not unheard of in sports.

Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), a televised boxing series, helped gain to gain followers by buying airtime from several networks, including Fox, NBC and CBS.

 

Joe Buck, Brad Faxon and Greg Norman, Fox Sports TV Analysts, are seen on set during rehearsal prior to the start of the 115th US Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 17, 2015 in University Place, Washington. Norman was later fired by Fox Sports

Joe Buck, Brad Faxon and Greg Norman, Fox Sports TV Analysts, are seen on set during rehearsal prior to the start of the 115th US Open Championship at Chambers Bay on June 17, 2015 in University Place, Washington. Norman was later fired by Fox Sports

On one hand, Fox Sports seems like a natural fit for LIV Golf, considering Norman’s reported relationship with fellow Australian Rupert Murdoch, who owns the network. Front Office Sports reports that Murdoch has a relationship with LIV consultant David Hill, a highly regarded sports television producer and another Australian.

In fact, the three collaborated on the failed World Golf Tour in the mid-1990s — a circuit that bears striking similarities to the PGA’s current rival, LIV Golf.

Conversely, Norman did have a bad breakup with Fox Sports in 2015, when he felt he was blamed for disappointing coverage of that year’s US Open.

‘I felt like I got rolled under the bus,’ he told FOS in 2021 of his firing at the network.

The PGA Tour’s bitter rivalry with LIV has been golf’s biggest rivalry since the upstart tour was launched with funding from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which also owns the English Premier League’s Newcastle United. Saudi Arabia has appropriated at least $2.4 billion for LIV Golf, according to reports.

Controversy immediately erupted as the PGA Tour banished defectors, such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Australian sensation Cameron Smith, all of whom have been criticized for taking millions from a country that has been widely criticized for human rights violations.

Litigation is ongoing involving both the PGA and European tours over LIV golfers’ banishment from those established circuits. On Tuesday, Mickelson and Ian Poulter were among four LIV players to motion to have their names removed from the lawsuit, which is still being pursued by LIV Golf and three others: Bryson DeChambeau, Peter Uihlein and Matt Jones.

Signs are posted at the LIV golf tournament on Thursday, September 15, in Sugar Grove, Illinois

Signs are posted at the LIV golf tournament on Thursday, September 15, in Sugar Grove, Illinois

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