When LIV Golf first launched, its Saudi backers likely assumed that selling its media rights would be as easy as a two-foot putt. Instead, the company is mired in a sand trap, and its options appear to be dwindling. That’s according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, which states that both Amazon and Apple were approached by LIV about purchasing the rebel golf tour’s media rights, and both companies passed.
Prime Video and Apple TV+ are joining ESPN, CBS, NBC, and FOX as companies who have decided against carrying LIV Golf. The hesitance to get into business with the new tour, despite a number of high-profile names on its roster, stems from a number of complicated dynamics. LIV has been accused more than once of using golf as a façade to help repair the reputation of Saudi Arabia prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud (MBS) after well-publicized human rights violations, including the murder of Saudi-American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
There are also competitive considerations involved for some of the networks. CBS, NBC, and ESPN all have deals with the PGA Tour, which is in the midst of a bitter feud with LIV as the new golf league tries to poach talent and move in on a market the PGA thought it had long-since cornered.
The amount of money invested in LIV has indeed drawn some big names. Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Cameron Smith have joined the new tour, and LIV is using big cash prizes to lure more golfers. LIV has offered purses of up to $25 million for individual tournament, which is far more than the PGA is able to provide.
The LIV denies any claims that it is using golf to try to whitewash the horrific acts sanctioned by the Saudi government, insisting its mission is to bring a new format to professional golf. LIV tournaments are 54 holes, which feature both a team element and “shotgun” starts in which the golfers all start at the same time across various holes on the course.
Live sports are usually hard for streamers to pass up, as their coverage is still largely dominated by linear TV networks. It will be fascinating to see if any U.S. streaming companies are willing to risk the damage to their reputation by aligning with LIV.
The league’s tournaments can be watched in the U.S. via LIV’s website or on YouTube. DAZN, a service mostly known for streaming boxing, is also carrying LIV tournaments.