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CW Cancels Most of Your Favorite Shows, Makes Deal with Saudi-Backed Golf League

The widely condemned Saudi Arabian government is making a push into American television.

The CW has entered into an agreement to air the 14 game tournament schedule of LIV Golf. 

The LIV Golf tour is owned by the Saudi Arabian monarchy, and as such has been widely criticized in recent years as part of an attempt to rehabilitate (or in some critics' view, “sportswash”) the Saudi Arabian government’s widely reported human rights abuses. 

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, amongst many other organizations, have roundly condemned the Saudi Arabian government for restricting human rights and civil liberties, particularly women’s rights, as there have been widespread reports of women being sexually assaulted and abused in Arabian detention centers.

While the Saudi Arabian government has announced reforms, many critics view these as mere window dressing and attempts to change the conversation, with Human Rights Watch noting:

“Saudi Arabia announced important and necessary reforms in 2020 and 2021, but ongoing repression and contempt for basic rights are major barriers to progress. The near-total repression of independent civil society and critical voices impedes the chances that reform efforts will succeed.”

In a report titled “Saudi Arabia codifies male guardianship and gender discrimination,” Amnesty International criticized the “continued imprisonment of women for their peaceful expression in support of women’s rights and imposition of travel bans against women human rights defenders are a crucial reminder of the inherently discriminatory systems women in the country face.” 

Saudi Arabia And 'Sports Washing'

The Saudi Arabian government has spent at least $1.5 billion on, per The Guardian, “sports washing,” and while that amount of money can buy a lot, there are limits, it would seem. 

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said that Tiger Woods turned down a “nine-figure” deal to join the tour. Norman has also been widely condemned for attempting to minimize the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who in 2018 was reportedly dismembered with a bone saw inside the Saudi Arabian consulate at the behest of Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

But despite the widespread criticism of the LIV Golf tournament and the Saudi Arabian government, it would seem there are those who are still willing to take what many consider to be blood money. Though in fairness, one supposes, to The CW, Sports Illustrated reports that LIV Golf will not get paid a traditional rights fee but that the league says its “mutually financially beneficial,” as the two will share advertising revenue, with LIV “expected to shoulder a good bit of promotional work.” 

The deal is set for three years, with the possibility of a rights fee being paid after two years.

A Strange Move for The CW

The CW started as a joint venture in 2006 between the companies now known as Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global. The network made a name for itself via teenage-centric programming such as “Gossip Girl,” and “Riverdale” and various DC Comics superhero adaptations, including “Arrow” and “The Flash.” In particular, the network was lauded by GLAAD as “the broadcast network with the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars for the fifth year in a row.”

The Flash Lead JS

In 2011, The CW entered into a $1 billion dollar deal with Netflix that helped the network survive during the streaming era, and which turned into a content farm for the streaming giant. That deal ended when Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global decided to focus on their own streaming services.

Last year the network was purchased by Nexstar  (NXST) - Get Free Report, the largest owner of local television stations in the U.S., and the largest owner of CW affiliates. “The Flash,” once one of the network’s signature shows, will end with an abbreviated final season, leaving the once robust network with only a handful of shows, including the remake “Walker” and “World's Funniest Animals.”