January 31, 2023

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The LIV Golf series reaches a TV deal with The CW

Finally, LIV Golf has a TV deal in the US.

The new circle funded and catalysed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund A year of turmoil in men’s professional golfon Thursday, that her 54-hole, no-cut championships will air on The CW Network and App starting next month.

Although the arrangement is a springboard for LIV Golf, which last year relegated its tournaments to online channels even as it featured stars like Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith, the deal also underscores the circuit’s short-term limitations and the challenges of any alternative league. faces to enter the American sports market.

LIV Golf, which critics see as part of an effort to repair Saudi Arabia’s reputation as a human rights abuser, 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 contract details are confidential, said LIV did not purchase airtime from the network, as some analysts thought was a possibility. Instead, the person said, the contract offers both sides mutual financial benefits, indicating that LIV does not receive the kind of hefty rights fees that are usually the financial backbone of a major sports league.

But the mostly American broadcasters who pay for the rights to high-profile sports have always seemed unlikely candidates for a partnership with LIV Golf. CBS and NBC seemed unwilling to consider airing their events on their major networks due to their close ties to the PGA Tour, and Disney-owned ABC was seen as an unlikely landing point because ESPN, also controlled by Disney, airs many touring events. Fox recently backed off coverage of golf.

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The CW, largely known over the years for programming like “America’s Next Top Model” and variety dramas, will not take responsibility for on-air productions, 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 more modest audiences—to air rounds of LIV on Fridays, with the network and the competition’s CW app showing on Saturdays and Sundays.

“Our new partnership between The CW and LIV Golf will provide a whole new audience and add to the league’s growing global excitement,” network president Dennis Miller said in a statement.

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The agreement is a reprieve for LIV, who has spent recent months staring down the skeptics who have criticized the new tour for it. No TV deal, its limited presence in tournaments and the PGA Tour’s retention of many of the world’s best players. LIV Golf hopes its second season, which will kick off with a tournament in Mexico in late February, will lead to financial and fan breakthroughs, especially as it fully embraces the franchise-affirming model.

In December, when the New York Times revealed McKinsey & Company confidential analysis Starting with 2021 indicating that the Saudi-backed, franchise-packed golf league will face a difficult path to profitability and convenience, a circuit spokesperson said LIV was confident that over the next few seasons, the remaining parts of our business model would come to fruition as planned.” .

McKinsey’s analysis deemed the television deal vital to the league’s success and suggested that the concept that became LIV could earn up to $410 million in broadcast rights in 2028, if settled in what it called “coexistence” with the PGA Tour. But if the league remains mired in “startup” mode, the advisors wrote, it can expect no more than $90 million annually for broadcast rights in 2028.

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

The round, which includes television deals that will pay it billions of dollars in coming years, has denied any wrongdoing. But in a filing in August, LIV Golf lawyers asserted that the tour had “diluted” the new league’s prospects for a rights agreement, and said the tour had “threatened sponsors and broadcasters that they should sever their ties with players who join LIV Golf, or prevent you from having any opportunities with them.” PGA Tour”.

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

LIV’s pursuit of a TV deal has proven more turbulent — or at least more public — than the last time its CEO, Greg Norman, tried to build a competitor to the PGA Tour. In 1994, when Norman brought up plans for a new tour, he had Buy from Foxwhich extended its commitment for 10 years. The uprising ended quickly anyway.

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

On Thursday, Will Steiger, LIV’s chief media officer, said the CW’s arrangement would allow the league to “serve core golf fans and reach viewers of casual sports and entertainment.”