Jared Kushner’s LIV Golf connection

Sun, sand and crabcakes on the Delaware coast. now This is what I call vacation. Until next week.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law of former President Donald Trump, reached out to one of his US media contacts to try and help the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour secure a media rights deal.

Earlier this month, shortly after hosting LIV at Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, NJ, Kushner called one of the top executives at Paramount, the owner of CBS, to try to get negotiations going. The former senior White House adviser was not working for LIV in an official capacity, according to a source familiar with the call. It is not known who called Kushner. “A call. Totally informal. It took very little time to do an introduction,” the source said.

LIV has held three tournaments to date, none of which have been televised on traditional US linear television. Talks with domestic networks have stalled, sources said, which is why Kushner offered to call a top Paramount executive.

It’s not surprising that someone in Kushner’s position would try to help LIV. Trump-owned golf courses host two of the eight LIV events, including Trump National Golf Club Doral, which is hosting the series finale in late October. Kushner and Trump attended the event in Bedminster.

Kushner’s private equity firm Affinity Partners secured a $2 billion investment last year, according to a NY Times report. Critics have dubbed these types of deals “sports laundry,” a way for a repressive regime to boost its image.

The PGA Tour is LIV’s biggest obstacle to signing a US TV deal. NBC, CBS, and ESPN just signed nine-year deals with the PGA Tour this season and have not yet attempted a deal with a competing league. Warner Bros. Discovery has multiple international deals with the PGA Tour and hasn’t been active in sports rights negotiations overall since David Zaslav took over this spring.

Fox perhaps makes the most sense, especially given a close relationship between LIV’s Greg Norman and Fox’s Rupert Murdoch – both of whom hail from Australia. But after initial talks stalled, Fox has not entered into any formal negotiations with LIV.

LIV executives are still expecting to receive a rights fee from a US media company. However, it faces a lot of headwinds. Due to the league’s controversial nature, it was difficult to persuade sponsors to participate – which would make it nearly impossible for US broadcasters to recoup any type of rights fee investment.

Another problem: the network timetables are full by the end of the year. Most networks might not be able to run LIV events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the fall. Let’s take fox for example. The network already has MLB, college football, NFL and FIFA World Cup commitments in the fall and winter.

In the absence of a TV deal, LIV has streamed its events through YouTube, Facebook and its own website. So far, these streams have not been able to reach a significant audience. For example, Bedminster’s YouTube feed last month had an average concurrent feed of just 74,000 on Sunday.

Kushner is not expected to do any more public relations on behalf of LIV or have an ongoing role in future media discussions, the source said.

Notre Dame is getting around $25 million a year from its current NBC deal, which runs through 2025. Sources say the school should expect around $60 million a year from a new contract – although it’s hard to predict what the media business will be like three years from now.

There has been speculation that Notre Dame could demand a rights fee of more than $75 million a year when renegotiating his new contract. That’s because it fills its schedule with games — like its longtime rivalry with Navy — that traditionally bring lower ratings.

Obviously, Notre Dame would remain independent if it agreed to a new rights deal. But its association with NBC — and NBC’s new association with the Big Ten — make it likely that the Fighting Irish would add more Big Ten games to their schedule.

In other words, expect a return of Notre Dame’s rivalry with Michigan before 2033 when they are next scheduled to meet. The two last played in 2019. This season, Notre Dame has one Big Ten school (Ohio State) and one upcoming Big Ten school (USC) on the roster.

Disney today responded to a letter from Third Point’s Daniel Loeb, “in which he reaffirmed CEO Bob Chapek’s leadership and pushed back on Loeb’s call for a ‘refresh’ on the company’s board,” notes Deadline.com. “We welcome the views of all our investors,” the letter said in part.

Loeb recently acquired a notable stake in Disney and “called for sweeping changes,” including a spinoff from ESPN, reports Bloomberg News. “ESPN is a great company that is currently generating significant free cash flow,” Loeb said in the letter. “Despite these benefits, we believe a strong case can be made that the ESPN business should be spun off to shareholders with a reasonable debt burden that will reduce leverage at the parent company.”

Loeb’s contact with Chapek “is likely to pressure the company to justify its costs and explain why ESPN should remain part of the entertainment giant.” ESPN+ has gained momentum, with subscriber numbers up 62% over the last 12 months 22.3 million, “after years of anemic growth”. But the streaming platform “still doesn’t make any money”.

Loeb also wrote that if ESPN were spun off, it would have “greater flexibility to pursue business initiatives that might be more difficult as part of Disney, such as sports betting.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Erik Hayden writes that while the US sports betting market is growing, Disney’s “family-friendly brand image may be at odds with fully utilizing this revenue stream.”

  • Fox Sports plans to bring 150 staff to Qatar to facilitate FIFA World Cup coverage, including about 30 personalities from the air, reports my colleague Alex Silverman. “It’s a small army we’re taking on,” said Executive Producer David Neal. He announced that the company would become the first company in US television history to have in-stadium commentators for all 64 games.
  • NASCAR recognizes the time is right to continue investing in content and is directing new resources into establishing an agency-like division called NASCAR Studios that will work with the industry on digital and social media projects, reports SBJ’s Adam Stern.
  • Those optimistic about the value of the NWSL franchises expect the league to see significant gains in media rights revenue in upcoming renewals, write SBJ’s Chris Smith and Silverman. The league’s streaming deal with Amazon-owned Twitch expires at the end of this season, and its TV deal with CBS expires at the end of next season.
  • Amazon expects a significant portion of viewers of every Thursday Night Football game to watch on smaller screens, and that meant creating a graphics package that looks good on big screens and still works on small ones. Amazon gave SBJ a first look at the new charts shown below.

Amazon has made every effort to ensure graphics play well on mobile phones and tablets

Starting next month, Amazon will begin streaming Thursday Night Football games through its Prime Video service

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