The list of broadcasting companies to pass on the new LIV Golf series grew this week.
Amazon and Apple — two of the biggest and newest players in the sports streaming market — both declined to carry LIV on their platforms, according to The Wall Street Journal. Other companies like ESPN, CBS, NBC and Fox have also already refused to air the Saudi-backed league, according to the Journal.
It wasn’t surprising when other major networks passed on LIV — CBS, NBC and ESPN already have deals with LIV’s biggest rival, the PGA Tour. But Amazon and Apple deciding against the upstart golf series is significant because of the two companies’ recent foray into live sporting events. Amazon is set to unveil its new “Thursday Night Football” broadcast this week after paying in the neighborhood of $100 billion for the NFL’s slate of games. Apple, meanwhile, inked a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal to stream Major League Soccer matches on Apple TV+ and also airs one “Friday Night Baseball” game a week.
Currently, LIV streams live on Facebook and YouTube and has a worldwide broadcast deal with the sports-streaming service DAZN. LIV also has deals with international networks like ServusTV in Germany and Austria and Eleven Sports in Italy.
Representatives at LIV didn’t sound too concerned with the recent news, though. CEO Greg Norman told ESPN 1000 Chicago on Wednesday that LIV is talking with “four different networks” and that the interest in the company “is enormous.” An executive also told the Journal that LIV is still early in negotiating its media rights and plans to have a deal by the start of the league’s first full season in 2023.
“We’re bullish about our prospects given our player field and the quality of our product,” LIV Golf Chief Media Officer Will Staeger said, per the Journal.
LIV recently lured 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith to join the league that already fields star golfers like Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson.
Despite the talented roster, controversy still swirls around LIV because the series is funded by the Saudi Arabian government, which has been accused of countless human rights violations. Many have claimed the league exists only to repair the world’s view of the Middle Eastern kingdom — also known as “sportswashing” — and even Mickelson described the Saudis as “scary” business partners.
“We know they killed [Washington Post journalist Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights,” Mickelson said in February. “They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it [joining LIV]? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape how the PGA Tour operates. And the Saudi money has finally given us that leverage.”
Months later, Norman brushed off the allegations against the Saudis and said “we’ve all made mistakes.”
The existence of LIV also fractured the sport of golf after the PGA banned players from the tour if they defected. There are still questions about whether or not LIV golfers will be allowed to compete in major tournaments like the Masters next year as well.
For now, any American fans of the league can only watch online on Facebook, YouTube or DAZN.