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Sports Media: NEP close to LIV Golf deal; could it be costly?

LIV Golf, under the direction of CEO Greg Norman (right, with Phil Mickelson), begins its tournaments on June 9.getty images

NEP Group is close to signing a deal with LIV Golf — a move that has the potential to create some upheaval in the television production world.

That’s because NEP already has a deep relationship with the PGA Tour, which has been dissuading its corporate partners from working with the Saudi-backed upstart league.

Essentially, the PGA Tour’s partners have to decide whether it’s worth the risk of angering tour executives in order to grow their business — and presumably cash a big check — with LIV Golf.

For the most part, the PGA Tour’s messaging has been delivered. If NEP signs a deal, it would become one of the only companies to work with both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

But conversations with several executives say that NEP was one of a handful of production companies that officially bid on the rights to handle the TV production for LIV Golf tournaments, which start June 9 from the Centurion Golf Club near London.

At the beginning of April, LIV Golf chose NEP’s bid over ones from companies including Game Creek Video and Gravity Media, according to several sources.

Nothing has been signed yet. The two sides still are negotiating to see if a deal can be had.

That’s where the intrigue comes into play. Most of the companies that have relationships with the PGA Tour have not engaged LIV Golf. Sports media has long been described as a relationship business, and these companies have little interest in potentially angering a longtime partner in the PGA Tour.

Just this year, the PGA Tour started nine-year media rights deals with CBS, ESPN and NBC that run through 2030.

As part of these deals, the PGA Tour took the lead on the television compounds at their events. That means that instead of CBS and NBC rolling production trucks to the events they carry, the PGA Tour is responsible for setting up the compound.

The idea is that such a move would make the quality of the telecasts more consistent through the tournaments.

The PGA Tour hired NEP and is using its trucks for those compounds. Should it cut a deal with LIV Golf, it’s unlikely that the PGA Tour would stop working with NEP. But it appears likely that their relationship would become more strained, at least in the beginning.

The other big question is who will carry the LIV Golf events in the U.S., considering that most of the big U.S.-based media companies already have deep relationships with the PGA Tour. Sources said LIV Golf had discussions about doing a deal with Fox, but those talks died down weeks ago.

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ and read his weekly newsletter and listen to his weekly podcast.

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