LIV Golf has long viewed a U.S. broadcast television deal as crucial to its growth and eventual financial viability. They’re now close that TV deal, with Front Office Sports reporting that LIV is finalizing an agreement with The CW network.
David Feherty, who left NBC Sports to become LIV’s primary color commentator last year, spilled the beans on this during a recent comedy show in Palm Beach, Fla., and Sports Business Journal had reported that The CW had emerged as the favorite to air the 14 events in LIV’s “league” season next year. In that sense, this deal is not a surprise. But there was initial belief—or, perhaps speculation—that a Fox Sports/ LIV partnership would make sense for a few reasons. First, NBC and CBS are already tied up with long-term deals with the PGA Tour. Then there’s Greg Norman’s connection with fellow Aussie Rupert Murdoch—it was Murdoch who had agreed to fund the World Golf Tour that Norman tried to start in the 90s, only to be shut down in humiliating fashion by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and key players like Arnold Palmer.
Front Office Sports called The CW the fifth-largest network in the United States and that it reaches 100 million households. That’s obviously great exposure for LIV, which broadcast the eight events from its first season live on YouTube—often to meager audiences. But The CW is not a network synonymous with sports broadcasts, and FOS claims that LIV will still handle the production costs as part of this deal. That’s not how this traditionally works—a network pays a league for the rights to broadcast its content, and then the network produces the actual broadcast.
“Financial details were not disclosed,” the Front Office report says, “although it’s expected to be a revenue-sharing setup often entered into with broadcast partners with newer sports leagues.”
That language suggests this is a pretty low risk for The CW—if they’re paying LIV a fee, it’s nominal, so the deal is really only upside for them. If there’s revenue generated from advertising, they’ll get a piece of it. If not, they didn’t have to pay much for the rights and didn’t have to pay any production costs.
Plenty of golf fans—the majority, perhaps—in this country are baby boomers who are unfamiliar with the streaming universe, so giving those people the opportunity to flip on their television and watch LIV is significant. Comparing LIV’s admittedly low YouTube numbers to the PGA Tour’s numbers on NBC or CBS is not apples to apples in the slightest. Now we’ll be able to see how many people actually tuned in to the LIV action, and how that number compares to PGA Tour broadcasts. It’ll also be interesting to see which companies are willing to air commercials during LIV broadcasts and which will shy away from what has become a rather controversial startup league.
Next up for LIV: announcing the list of 48 players that’ll compete in the 14 events next year. Keep in mind that one of LIV’s main selling points is that it’s the same guys and teams each week, so the list that they release here soon will be the LIV guys for 2023–there won’t be a slow trickle of guys jumping ship like there was last year. Of course, there could be exceptions to this rule. If someone big enough wanted to sign with LIV, they’d make room. But still, that initial list will be hugely telling. All signs point toward Mito Pereira making the jump, but who else?