LIV Golf, a professional tour that launched last year with backing from the government of Saudi Arabia, has finally landed a U.S. TV deal.
The tour signed a multi-year pact with the CW, helping the broadcast network move closer toward its goal of delivering more live sports. Nexstar Media Group acquired majority control of the CW last year, with former 50-50 partners Paramount Global and Warner Bros Discovery each retaining 12.5% stakes.
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The exclusive rights deal starts with the 2023 LIV season. The CW will air 14 of the tour’s events on weekends in 2023 and will stream them live on the CW app, including on Fridays. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the rights process was hampered by the PGA’s strong ties with major media companies like NBCUniversal and Paramount, parent of CBS. In addition to blowback from PGA Tour veterans like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, many LIV tournaments have been picketed by protesters assailing the effort as “sportswashing” by the Saudi government.
The prospect of carrying the LIV tour, both from the political perspective and in terms of alienating the PGA. Live streams of LIV events hosted online have thus far drawn small audiences. All of those factors kept the bidding from heating up into an auction resembling other recent ones in the vibrant sports rights arena.
Nexstar, which is the No. 1 owner of local TV stations in the U.S., also runs cable network NewsNation but is otherwise not yet a national media player outside of the CW. The network and parent company see plenty of upside in the arrangement, even if it means they won’t be airing the PGA Championship anytime soon.
The rights deal “will deliver a whole new audience and add to the growing worldwide excitement for the league,” CW President Dennis Miller said. “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. 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.”
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