LIV Golf has inked a multi-year deal with The CW Network to broadcast its tournaments starting with the 2023 season. All 14 events will be on The CW, with Round 1 (Friday) coverage on its app and Rounds 2 and 3 (Saturday and Sunday) on both traditional broadcast television and the app.
"This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights," said LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman. "The CW will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners as their reach includes more than 120 million households across the United States.
"We're very proud to note how consequential it is that a league that has only existed for one year has secured a full broadcast deal in its debut full league season," Norman continued. "The CW and its majority owner, Nexstar Media Group, recognize the enormous interest in and potential of our league and with their support, more fans will experience the energy and innovative competition that LIV Golf is using to reinvigorate the sport. The CW is a world-class media partner, and we are honored to be joining forces to further bring LIV Golf to life as they stake their claim in professional sports."
LIV Golf has been on different networks in a variety of countries for most of its brief existence -- it's on Viaplay in Finaland, Eleven in Luxembourg and Mola TV in Singapore, for example -- but it has always viewed a TV deal in the United States as a big-time component of its future growth. It's no secret that the holy grail of programming in this era is live sports, and The CW landed a live sport that includes several of that game's greatest champions, including Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.
"Our new partnership between The CW and LIV Golf will deliver a whole new audience and add to the growing worldwide excitement for the league," said CW president Dennis Miller. "With CW's broadcasts and streams, more fans across the country and around the globe can partake in the LIV Golf energy and view its innovative competition that has reimagined the sport for players, fans and the game of golf. For The CW, our partnership with LIV Golf marks a significant milestone in our goal to re-engineer the network with quality, diversified programming for our viewers, advertisers and CW affiliates. This also marks the first time in The CW's 17-year history that the network is the exclusive broadcast home for live mainstream sports."
LIV will share revenue with CW and continue to produce its own content, according to ESPN, which is no different than what it did last year on YouTube. The good news for LIV is that it will not pay The CW for a spot on TV; Golfweek reported last fall that LIV nearly closed a deal with Fox Sports in which LIV would pay for airtime. The good news for The CW is that it got live sports without having to pay. Sports rights are astronomical, and no matter how one feels about LIV, it still represents live sports.
This year's LIV Golf season begins Feb. 24-26 in Mayakoba at El Camaleon Golf Course, which previously hosted a PGA Tour event. After that, LIV will globetrot to Australia, Singapore, Tulsa, Spain and West Virginia, with several other events yet to be named.
What this means
The goal for LIV since it came together at the beginning of 2022 was to be on traditional television, specifically in the United States. The reason for this desire is two-fold. It would have been extremely difficult for LIV to attract sponsors if it was distributing its own content on YouTube because of its ties to the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia, and the fact that it is funded by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. For many big advertisers, that's a non-starter. Now, LIV is simply a smaller part of a bigger network. Brands and companies won't be as avoidant because LIV will be just one sliver of a bigger ad buy.
The second reason is perception. Every LIV event last year was streamed on YouTube, and the numbers were not impressive. Only two of the final rounds averaged more than 100,000 viewers. We could do a deep dive on why that's the case, but we'll save that for another time (or platform). The bottom line for LIV is that it was a tough scene. Even though LIV is reducing its potential reach, it might be increasing its actual numbers because the way traditional TV numbers are measured is often not as accurate as a platform like YouTube.
Or, perhaps actual numbers won't increase. That remains to be seen. LIV is certainly celebrating this as a noteworthy day as it nears the genesis of its second season, but in the long term I'm not sure putting live golf on The CW app is the best way to disrupt this (or any other) industry.