Broadcasting

Why LIV Golf's new TV deal comes with its own complications

February 24, 2023
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Dustin Johnson is interviewed on the LIV Golf broadcast after his victory in September at the LIV Golf Invitational - Boston event.

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LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman called it a “momentous day” for his golf league when it was announced in mid-January that the second-year Saudi-backed circuit signed its first U.S. television deal with The CW Network. In its first season, LIV could be seen only on YouTube and its own website in the U.S., so getting onto linear television was viewed as an enormous step forward.

But as with most circumstances involving LIV, the reality is far more complicated. As first reported by Deadline, all 14 of LIV's 2023 events will appear in 100 percent of The CW markets, but the network and LIV have had to look beyond some CW affiliates in several big cities because those stations are owned by CBS, which is a broadcast partner with the PGA Tour.

According to Deadline, affiliates are contractually obligated to show only primetime CW programs, and there are eight CBS-owned affiliates, as well as stations owned by Weigel Broadcasting Co. and Tegna Inc., that won’t show LIV’s second and third rounds on the weekends. (The first rounds of the 54-hole events will only be available on The CW and LIV Golf apps.) Some of the affected larger city markets include Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, San Diego, Tampa and Hartford-New Haven, Conn.

Other local stations in those markets will air the tournaments instead, allowing the tout of being in 100 percent of markets to technically be accurate. In some of the cities, the alternative station is owned by Nexstar, which bought 75 percent of The CW last year from Paramount and Warner Bros. Discovery. WBD, which owns Golf Digest, and Paramount each retained a 12.5 percent share of The CW.

CBS, Nexstar and The CW declined to comment for the Deadline story.

The Deadline report speculated that “blue-chip” ad buyers are likely to take a conservative approach toward LIV, citing a major agency source who said some potential advertisers “are waiting on the sideline to see if there is any pushback once it starts to air.”

In another development, Deadline reported that The CW has not asked Nielsen to measure this weekend’s telecasts for LIV’s season opener in Mexico, which likely means that no viewership numbers will be available.

Meanwhile, when The CW airs LIV events in 2023, only the events played in North America will be shown live on the linear broadcast in the 1-6 p.m. ET window. The five LIV events being played overseas (Australia, Singapore, Spain, England and Saudi Arabia) will be shown on tape delay in that same time window, with live broadcasts only available on The CW or LIV apps.