The old adage for media companies is “content is king,” and the world of streaming platforms has put sports media rights in focus.
Live sports continue to generate huge viewership and command premium advertising dollars, but one league was rejected by a major streaming platform.
What Happened: AppleTV turned down a deal to land the rights to stream LIV Golf matches due to the league being "too toxic," according to Barstool Sports, an entity of PENN Entertainment PENN.
Barstool Sports reporter Dan Rapaport cited a "well-placed source," adding that it's "still not clear where LIV will be broadcast in 2023."
AppleTV, a unit of Apple Inc. AAPL, has shelled out billions to land sports content. The Cupertino, California-based company has partnered with Major League Baseball and is bidding on content from the National Football League.
AppleTV also paid a reported $2.5 billion in a 10-year deal for the rights to Major League Soccer matches beginning in 2023.
Why It’s Important: LIV Golf, which is a competitor to the PGA Tour, has been controversial from the start as it is financed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia.
The golf league’s ties to the PIF, which has been accused of human rights violations, have led to some backing away from the league.
Golfers on the PGA Tour, including several high-profile names, have taken large paychecks to join the upstart golf league. The movement of golfers to LIV Golf has led to opposition by some of the top names in golf, including Tiger Woods.
LIV Golf holds its tournaments over three days instead of four days, referenced by its name which represents the 54 holes golfers complete during each tournament. Shotgun starts and team play also add new elements that could make the league transition well for media content.
Right now, LIV Golf airs its matches on its website and on YouTube — owned by Alphabet Inc. GOOGGOOGL — where it has over 200,000 followers. The recently held Invitational Boston had over 858,000 views on its final round video. The Invitational Portland saw 562,000, 476,000 and 798,000 views respectively for its three rounds.
PGA Golf rights belong to several media companies with Paramount Global Inc. PARAPARAA, Comcast Corporation CMCSA and The Walt Disney Company DIS all having deals in place. Those companies would be unlikely to bid on rights from a competitor.
With Paramount, Comcast, and Disney owned ESPN out of the picture along with Apple that leaves Fox Corporation FOXFOXA and other streaming companies like Amazon.com Inc AMZN and Netflix Inc NFLX as companies that LIV Golf could target.
Another wrinkle in the growth of LIV Golf and selling the media rights could be the recently announced TGL golf league from Woods and fellow pro-golfer Rory McIlroy. The new league is partnered with the PGA Tour and will feature primetime matchups. No media partner has been named for the new league.
When it comes to betting on the future of golf, media companies could be tasked with paying millions of dollars for a league that could be a PR nightmare and face boycotts by subscribers (LIV Golf) or betting on a new league from Woods and McIlroy.
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