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Richard Deitsch: Saudi Government Ties Won’t Keep LIV Off TV in US

“According to Deitsch, the networks that aren’t interested would be steering clear because of their relationships with the PGA Tour, not because of any social backlash.”

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Richard Deitsch is answering reader questions this week in his column for The Athletic. He received several questions about the media future of LIV Golf. His answer is short and sweet. LIV Golf will end up on TV in the United States at some point.

One reader named Christopher wondered if streaming events through partners like YouTube and Facebook is hurting any momentum the tour creates every time a new golfer signs on. Another, named Merri, wondered if the lack of a TV deal that pays LIV Golf makes it less viable in the long run.

“I think LIV will get a media deal in 2023,” Deitsch answers.

What companies want to be in business with the Saudi government, which backs LIV Golf? According to Deitsch, the networks that aren’t interested would be steering clear because of their relationships with the PGA Tour, not because of any social backlash.

“If you think sports media entities will pass on LIV because of allegations of the Saudi government’s complicity with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, or its alleged involvement in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, or its treatment of gay people, let me introduce you to ESPN and Turner, who partner with the NBA, who partners with China, and Fox’s World Cup coverage from Russia. I think LIV will sell its rights cheap in the U.S. and someone will bite.”

LIV Golf has created some interest, but with no traditional broadcast partner, its appeal may be limited thus far. The tour attempted to purchase air time from FOX for its first event in London, but was turned down. As a result, an average audience of less than 75,000 in the United States watched.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has been outspoken in his disdain for the competition. Golfers that have signed on to LIV have been banned from PGA events. That likely means that when LIV is ready to take its product to the networks, the PGA’s TV partners, CBS, ESPN and NBC, are not likely to bite.

Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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Sports TV News

Greg Olsen Believes He and Kevin Burkhardt Can Handle Games ‘On Any Stage’

“Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Greg Olsen

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen are on tap to call Super Bowl LVII in February, and Olsen told Front Office Sports he has the confidence to announce the game with no hesitations.

“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day. We just did it on Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again around Christmas. And obviously throughout the [NFL] Playoffs,” said Olsen. “So whatever decision they make. Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“But as of now, I anticipate Kevin and I, the two of us, with Erin and Tom down on the sidelines, the four of us, broadcasting the Super Bowl in February in Arizona. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s how we’re proceeding.”

Olsen also told FOS he has negotiated a new contract with FOX Sports, but declined to share details. He is slated to be replaced on the top broadcast crew once Tom Brady ends his playing career. Brady will then begin a 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as the network’s top NFL game analyst and brand ambassador.

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