Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf has a television partner five weeks before the start of its second season, which announced on Thursday it has reached an agreement with The CW to broadcast tournaments at weekends and to broadcast the first rounds on The CW’s app stream.
A US television deal was seen as critical for the opposing league, which last year was only available via streaming on its website and YouTube.
The next season of the LIV Golf League, with a focus on the 12 four-man teams it plans to franchise, begins February 24-26 on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in Mayakoba, where a fall PGA Tour event took place.
LIV Golf did not disclose details of the partnership, but multiple media outlets have reported that The CW would not pay LIV Golf for media rights in the traditional sense, nor buy time on the network. Instead, the proposed agreement would be to share advertising revenue.
LIV also said it would produce the coverage with its own team.
The CW is the fifth largest US network and has the second youngest audience by media age of the five, behind Fox.
The network dates back to 2006 and was named after its co-owners (CBS and Warner Bros.). Nexstar Media Group acquired 75 percent of the network in October, with Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery retaining a minority stake.
NBC (and Golf Channel) and CBS have a nine-year rights deal with the PGA Tour, while ESPN got the rights to its digital rights under the new deal, along with weekday coverage of the Masters and the PGA Championship.
Of the top four networks, Fox has no golf. It had the USGA contract – Norman was its first senior analyst – pending an agreement to sell it to NBC.
Network not known for sports coverage
Best known for syndicated programming, The CW had no sports programming.
“For The CW, our partnership with LIV Golf marks a significant milestone in our goal to transform the network with high-quality, diverse programming for our viewers, advertisers and CW partners,” said Dennis Miller, President of The CW. “This also marks the first time in The CW’s 17-year history that the network has been the exclusive broadcast hub for live mainstream sports.”
However, money doesn’t seem to be an issue at LIV Golf, which has spent around $1 billion signing big champions like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia.
LIV Golf is the lead plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund owns 93 percent of LIV Golf, according to arguments at a hearing in California last week.
LIV Golf has 48 players forming the 12 teams. The competition spans 54 holes with a shotgun start and a $25 million prize pool at each stop, with $5 million earmarked for team results.
The league is planning a 14-event schedule this year, though only eight stops have been announced. It has yet to be determined how many other PGA Tour or European Tour players will join the lead. LIV is also awaiting a response from the Official World Golf Rankings as to whether it will be included on other tours around the world.