LIV Golf Series Reaches TV Deal With The CW

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LIV Golf, at last, has a television deal in the United States.

The new circuit, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and the catalyst for a year of turmoil in men’s professional golf, said on Thursday that its 54-hole, no-cut tournaments would air on the CW network and its app beginning next month.

Although the arrangement is a steppingstone for LIV Golf, whose tournaments last year were relegated to internet streams even as it showcased stars like Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith, the deal also underscores the circuit’s short-term limitations and the challenges any alternative league faces in gaining entry into the American sports market.

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LIV Golf, whose critics view it as part of an effort to repair Saudi Arabia’s reputation as a human rights abuser, and CW officials did not immediately disclose the financial terms of the agreement. But a person familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract’s details were confidential, said LIV had not purchased airtime from the network, as some analysts had thought was a possibility. Instead, the person said, the contract offers both sides mutual financial benefits, suggesting that LIV is not receiving the kind of hefty rights fee that is usually the financial backbone of a major sports league.

But the American broadcasters most often paying for marquee sports rights always appeared to be unlikely candidates for a partnership with LIV Golf. CBS and NBC appeared unwilling to consider airing its events on their flagship networks because of their close ties to the PGA Tour, and Disney-owned ABC was seen as an improbable landing spot because ESPN, which Disney also controls, streams many tour events. Another potential suitor, Fox, has lately stepped back from golf coverage.

The CW, largely known over the years for programming like “America’s Next Top Model” and varied dramas, will not assume responsibility for on-air production, which will remain under LIV’s control. The network will use an app — an important platform for broadcasters and leagues but one that often draws far more modest audiences — to air LIV’s Friday rounds, with the network and the CW app showing competition on Saturdays and Sundays.

“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,” Dennis Miller, the network’s president, said in a statement.

The agreement is a reprieve for LIV, which had spent recent months staring down its skeptics who criticized the new tour for its absence of a television deal, its limited attendance at tournaments and the PGA Tour’s retention of many of the world’s top players. LIV Golf is hoping that its second season, which will begin with a tournament in Mexico in late February, will lead to fan and financial breakthroughs, especially as it more fully embraces a model that emphasizes franchises.

In December, when The New York Times disclosed a confidential McKinsey & Company analysis from 2021 that suggested that a Saudi-backed, franchise-filled golf league would face a tricky path to profitability and relevancy, a spokesman for the circuit said LIV was “confident that over the next few seasons, the remaining pieces of our business model will come to fruition as planned.”

The McKinsey analysis considered a television deal a vital ingredient for a league’s success and suggested that the concept that became LIV could earn as much as $410 million from broadcast rights in 2028, if it settled into what it called a “coexistence” with the PGA Tour. But if the league remained mired in “start-up” status, the consultants wrote, it could expect no more than $90 million a year for its broadcast rights in 2028.

In its antitrust case against the PGA Tour, which is not scheduled to go to trial before next January, LIV Golf has used its struggles to secure a television deal as evidence of what it sees as the long-dominant tour’s monopolistic behavior.

The tour, which has television deals that will pay it billions of dollars in the coming years, has denied wrongdoing. But in a filing in August, LIV Golf’s lawyers asserted that the tour had “compromised” the new league’s prospects to reach a rights agreement and said that the tour had “threatened sponsors and broadcasters that they must sever their relationships with players who join LIV Golf, or be cut off from having any opportunities with the PGA Tour.”

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LIV also said that CBS officials had said “they cannot touch LIV Golf even for consideration” because of the network’s ties to the PGA Tour. (Paramount Global, which controls CBS, holds a minority stake in the CW. The tour also has a contract with Warner Bros. Discovery, another minority stakeholder in the CW.)

LIV’s pursuit of a television deal proved more turbulent — or at least more public — than the last time its chief executive, Greg Norman, tried to build a rival to the PGA Tour. In 1994, when Norman rolled out plans for a new tour, he had buy-in from Fox, which had extended a 10-year commitment. The uprising ended quickly anyway.

Despite the headwinds this time, Norman projected confidence for months that LIV would secure some kind of contract. In November, he called a television deal “a priority” and predicted that one would be locked down “very, very soon.”

On Thursday, Will Staeger, LIV’s chief media officer, said the CW arrangement would let the league “serve both core golf fans and to reach the casual sports and entertainment viewer.”



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