LIV Golf’s new TV deal with The CW explained: Will anyone watch? It may not matter

Golf. The CW Network, a money-losing over-the-air channel, primarily targets young adults and teenagers. It is not focused on private country clubs or the luxurious tour’s palatial outside. Instead, it may feature footage related to the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks. However, it is likely that you will be able to watch the 2023 Saudi-backed golf event called “Year 2.”

Determine the implications for sports enthusiasts who wish to view LIV this year, allow us to navigate the complex situation of turmoil within the domestic media industry, the intense conflicts within men’s professional golf, and the geopolitical factors at play in this scenario.

The CW-LIV multiyear deal was formally announced on Thursday, after striking out with other tech giants and networks. There was speculation before that they might have to pay FS1 as a network to broadcast them, but the financial details and number of years were not disclosed. According to The New York Times, the deal may be shaped as a revenue-sharing agreement rather than a traditional lump sum payment for rights.

Mexico’s 2023 LIV’s 14-stop schedule begins on February 24th, with only seven confirmed dates so far. The deal ensures that coverage will only be available on the app streaming service, which is ad-supported. However, the three-day tournaments will be broadcast on CW TV during the weekends.

LIV already has a few streaming and television deals overseas, including a partnership with DAZN, an American television partner, for streaming its own social platforms and Facebook, YouTube, targeting small audiences and tournaments in 2022.

Court lawsuits in fighting LIV against the competing PGA Tour, which has a slight connection with any established media powerhouse like NBC, CBS, ESPN, or national networks with sports broadcasts, failed to secure a media licensing agreement with the emerging golf tour allegedly supported by $2 billion from Saudi petroleum funds.

Will anyone tune in to this league?

Certainly, however, the difficulties are significant, beginning with the geopolitical consequences that extend well beyond the golf course.

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national and dissident critic of Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian regime, was a columnist for The Washington Post. Investigations by U.S. Intelligence and other authorities have stated that the gruesome assassination of Khashoggi in 2018 was ordered by the powerful Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, who chaired the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund. The Gulf state of Saudi Arabia, known for its abundant oil reserves, has used LIV financing, through its $620 billion public investment fund, as a significant component of its extensive efforts to improve public relations, which has been referred to as “sportswashing” by some.

The protests have consistently been linked to events that the kingdom has long denied any association with — the hijackers from September 11, 2001. Additionally, Saudi Arabia, a longstanding ally and client of the U.S. Weapons industry, also has deep ties to the Gulf region.

The PGA Tour and LIV have ongoing lawsuits against each other, which isn’t particularly surprising, but what is surprising is the number of players who have their rights violated beyond the human elements.

Major sports organizations, like the NBA, face criticism for engaging in business deals with governments, such as China’s totalitarian regime, that have questionable social justice and human rights records.

Many people do not want to mix politics with their entertainment, so they will ignore anything on TV, even if it seems impossible in the case of LIV. There is a lot going on here.

How will this impact LIV’s ratings?

In nearly every American television home, The CW stands as one of the five primary nationwide TV networks (alongside ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC), granting it a wider audience than conventional cable channels. Numerous occasional spectators might not be aware of this fact.

Amid the ongoing chaos in the domestic TV industry, every major network has a fraction of the audience it enjoyed years ago, despite having a vast array of entertainment choices for viewers. However, this does not automatically translate into locked eyeballs on the screen.

Despite its reputation for youth-skewing programming, that category experienced a 45 percent decline year over year, even ranking lower at 29th for adults aged 18-49. In 2021, The CW averaged 574,000 daily viewers, placing it 25th among channels in the U.S.

In contrast, NBC sits at No. 1 with an average of 5.144 million viewers, while CBS comes in a close second with an average of 5.148 million viewers. Those are the primary media partners of the PGA Tour. The Channel Golf delved much deeper into the sea of cable channels, attracting an average of 94,000 viewers.

Despite The CW trailing behind its primary network rivals in terms of viewership, it is still a substantially larger platform for LIV.

The tournament in Bangkok was not helped by a vast differential in time zones. The event opened in London last June with an average of 104,000 viewers in the U.S. On YouTube and 40,000 viewers for its Miami event in October, which was the lowest point at 21,000.

Miami LIV event ranks 6th of 8 in YouTube final round viewership.

Total window viewership AVERAGES

104k – London 90k – Portland76k – Bedminster117k – Boston61k – Chicago21k – Bangkok27k – Jeddah40k – Miami

Below Final round recaps in 15 min increments.

— Robopz (@Robopz) October 30, 2022

Nowadays, The Masters attracts approximately 10 million viewers on CBS — particularly on major tournament days and Sundays, where viewership averages a few million. In contrast, the PGA Tour’s tournaments have lower viewership.

It appears that golf is a sport in which matters less than others, but it is gradually losing its appeal. Contrary to the criticism of the PGA Tour’s TV audience stability over the years, the Business Sports Journal’s analysis shows that it has mostly remained steady.

What would be a victory for The CW and LIV?

Do we not know yet? The question that sets up a new craving for advertisers during the airtime of LIV events is: Which typical golf advertisers want more of the irreverence and fun of “Tin Cup” and “Caddyshack” rather than appealing to Judge Smails and the wealthy members of Bushwood with their money-hungry caddies?

Apart from generic and unexciting press release statements, under this agreement, the internal measures of success for The CW and LIV Golf, in the near and distant future, remain uncertain.

We know that the decision to shift CW’s media rights represents a major strategic move, as it was created in 2006 from the remnants of WB and UPN and is primarily known for syndicated shows and youth programming. CW was purchased by local TV station giant Nexstar Media Group last year, with Discovery retaining smaller equity stakes and Warner Bros. And Paramount having control.

LIV has the potential to achieve something that aims to attract older viewers. However, it is rumored that LIV is also collaborating with The CW, discontinuing a few scripted shows, reducing expenses, and revamping The CW’s schedule. Nexstar is involved in this process.

In a declaration, CW chief Dennis Miller stated, “This additionally signifies the initial occurrence in The CW’s 17-year chronicle that the network is the sole airing residence for live conventional sports.”

Apart from selling airtime, it offers extra benefits and is a standard practice in the television industry to advertise its other content and assets through LIV Golf as a prominent platform, excluding the network.

The executives at LIV say that Saudi Arabia’s monetary support, or lack thereof, definitely contributes to their desire for the growth of the new TV show and the game of golf.

“Expressed in an official statement, Will Staeger, LIV Golf’s chief media officer, stated, ‘Through our fresh long-term collaboration with The CW, we will enhance our capacity to cater to both dedicated golf enthusiasts and engage with the more relaxed sports and entertainment viewer, aligning with our objective to expand the sport.’ ‘Our groundbreaking product appeals to a younger audience compared to the conventional golf fanbase.'”

What would a CW/LIV tournament resemble?

The CW is not including that substantial expense on its financial statement, indicating that the network is entrusting the production of the golf tournament television to LIV. The new owners have expressed their objective to make it profitable by 2025, but currently, the network is not generating any profit. Nexstar took on a network debt of approximately $100 million, but they did not provide immediate payment in cash or stock for The CW.

Dom Boulet, Su-Ann Heng, and Troy Mullins will be responsible for on-course and feature reporting, while LIV’s production will still utilize TV booth play-by-play announcer Arlo White and analysts David Feherty and Jerry Foltz, just like they did last year.

LIV aims to attract a younger fan base (as well as the brands that wish to advertise to them in commercials) without distancing traditional golf enthusiasts familiar with the PGA Tour’s extensive history. It achieves this by employing a smaller group of players with no eliminations, utilizing shotgun starts to shorten playing time, implementing a 54-hole three-day tournament format, creating livelier atmospheres, introducing player teams, and offering substantial prize pools to captivate both professional golfers and golf enthusiasts.

Reed Patrick, Koepka Brooks, DeChambeau Bryson, and Dustin Johnson, along with Phil Mickelson, are among the notable players in the happy litigation. The fields in the LIV tournament include both well-known and lesser-known names. Additionally, it has been reported that nine players have signed massive contracts, adding to the already substantial amount of money involved. Thanks to the talent of the PGA Tour, the total prize pool for this year has increased from $225 million to a whopping $405 million.

According to Sports Illustrated, the Saudis spent nearly $790 million on LIV last year, including prize money, player perks, parties, marketing, etc.

Golfweek reports that the prize total for Events 38 is nearly $460 million, including minimum payouts of $500,000 and an increase in player compensation. The PGA Tour is forced to splurge on a Gatsby-like lavishness for its purses and structure.

The final verdict

Currently, at this moment, perhaps that is not significant. The CW? Approximately 910,000 viewers on average watched the recent Critics’ Choice Awards, which means that LIV should focus on attracting larger audiences and investing in television programming.

During LIV events, do not anticipate witnessing a significant presence of advertisements and signs endorsing the interests of the Saudi Arabian government. Instead, one might expect to encounter only minimal promotion of basic tourism, regardless of the LIV viewership. This is due to the fact that foreign agents are obligated by the U.S. Department of Justice to register and disclose details such as financial compensation and activities, as highlighted by Sports Illustrated.

Patrick Rishe, a professor and head of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, expressed via email on Friday, “The perception of LIV’s agreement with The CW can vary depending on the individual.”

It is not necessary for LIV, as this is only a revenue-sharing agreement where CW does not pay any rights fees to LIV. Alternatively, one could criticize the fact that The CW, which ranked as the 25th most popular television channel in 2022, has significantly fewer viewers compared to LIV’s preferred media partners (such as Fox). Another option is to criticize LIV for making a deal with a network whose younger viewers have little interest in golf, if one wants to be cynical and derogatory.

They now have the opportunity to build a larger audience on YouTube than on linear TV channels like 1 Sports Fox, FX, and ESPN2. These channels are among the top 25 most-watched channels, with higher viewership ratings. They have a linear TV partner. However, in 2022, they did not have something that they now have, which is being said to be LIV.

If the relationship between CW-LIV is successful, it potentially opens the door to more traditional TV sports partners such as TBS or TNT.

Rishe stated, “LIV Golf will never supplant the PGA Tour, make no error.” “However, the disturbance of the golf industry by LIV Golf undeniably aided in expediting the development of enhanced monetary prospects for all golfers, make no error. The irrefutable evidence of this is the overhauled PGA Tour schedule.”