Saudi-funded LIV Golf has a television partner five weeks before the start of its second season, announcing Thursday it has an agreement with The CW to air tournaments on the weekend and stream the first rounds on The CW’s app.
A U.S. television deal was seen as critical for the rival league, which last year was available only through streaming on its website and on YouTube.
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The next season of LIV Golf League, with an emphasis on the 12 four-man teams it hopes to create as franchises, starts Feb. 24-26 on the Gulf coast of Mexico at Mayakoba, which hosted a fall PGA Tour event.
“This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights,” LIV CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman said in a statement. “The CW will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners as their reach includes more than 120 million households across the United States.”
LIV Golf did not disclose details of the partnership, but several media outlets have reported that The CW will not pay for media rights to LIV Golf in the traditional sense, nor would it buy time on the network. Instead, the proposed agreement would be to share advertising revenue.
LIV also said it would be producing the coverage with its own team.
The CW is the fifth-largest U.S. network and of those five has the second-youngest audience based on media age, trailing only Fox.
The network dates to 2006 and was named after its founding co-owners (CBS and Warner Bros.). Nexstar Media Group acquired 75 percent of the network in October, with Paramount Global and Warner Bros. Discovery maintaining minority ownership.
NBC (and Golf Channel) and CBS have a nine-year rights deal with the PGA Tour, while ESPN won the right for its digital rights under the new contract, along with having weekday coverage of the Masters and PGA Championship.
Of the leading four networks, Fox does not have golf. It had the USGA contract — Norman was its first lead analyst — until an arrangement to sell that to NBC.
The CW is best known for syndicated programming, and hasn’t had sports programming.
“For The CW, our partnership with LIV Golf marks a significant milestone in our goal to re-engineer the network with quality, diversified programming for our viewers, advertisers and CW affiliates,” The CW President Dennis Miller said. “This also marks the first time in The CW’s 17-year history that the network is the exclusive broadcast home for live mainstream sports.”
Norman touted a “full broadcast deal” for a league that only began in June and now enters the debut season of its emphasis on team competition.
Money, however, does not appear to be an issue with LIV Golf, which has spent some $1 billion in signing major champions such as 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. According to arguments in a hearing last week in California, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia owns 93 percent of LIV Golf.
LIV Golf has 48 players that comprise the 12 teams. The competition is over 54 holes with a shotgun start and $25 million prize funds at each stop, with $5 million devoted to team results.
The league plans a 14-event schedule this year, though only eight stops have been announced. Still be to be determined is how many additional PGA Tour or European tour players join the lead. LIV also awaits an answer from the Official World Golf Ranking whether it will be included with other tours around the world.
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