Not all CW affils carrying controversial golf league funded by Saudi interests
In a bit of a surprise, LIV Golf’s first tournament on The CW won’t air on its local affiliate here. Instead it’s airing on its former affiliate.
As first reported on T Dog Media’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, the controversial golf league is airing on WGN-TV this season instead of WCIU-TV, known locally as CW 26 and owned by Weigel Broadcasting. Nexstar owns WGN-TV and WGN Radio, and last year bought a 75 percent stake in The CW, the network formed in 2006 from a merger between UPN and The WB. The purchase immediately raised questions about the future of CW programming on WCIU, who became an affiliate in 2019 after three years at Fox-owned WPWR.
WGN was a CW affiliate from 2006 to 2016.
Chicago isn’t the only market where LIV Golf won’t air on its primary CW affiliate. In four other markets, Nexstar is airing the tournament on their owned-and-operated stations who are not CW affiliates: WPHL Philadelphia, KRON San Francisco, WTTA Tampa-St. Petersburg, and WCTX Hartford-New Haven. All four are affiliates of programming service My Network TV.
“The CW Network announced today the upcoming 2023 LIV Golf League season will air in 100 percent of its markets across the United States, as part of the network’s previously announced multi-year exclusive broadcast agreement with the groundbreaking golf league,” Nexstar said in a press release on Tuesday. “The first official full season of LIV Golf will air on CW affiliates, as well as Nexstar-owned and operated stations in key markets including Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Tampa and Hartford.”
But the release didn’t say 100 percent of CW affiliates. Three of those markets mentioned – Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Tampa is where CBS owns the CW affiliate, who once had a 50 percent stake in the network (along with Warner Bros.’ half), reduced to just 12.5 percent under the new ownership structure. A report circulated earlier in the week that CBS would not clear the golf league on any on its CW stations out of loyalty to the rival PGA tour, who CBS, along with NBC, has rights to. This is indeed the case in some markets such as Atlanta, where CBS-owned CW affiliate WUPA turned down the golf tournament and is airing instead on Gray-owned independent WPCH (the former WTBS), according to Zap2It. The real reason may be because CW stations aren’t currently contractually bound to air any daytime programming – the last time they did so was two years ago when The CW aired an hour of weekday Jerry Springer reruns, as a three-year deal to carry them expired in September 2021.
For WGN, it’s yet another entry back into the sports business, after seeing the longtime over-the-air home to the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks exit in 2019 for exclusive RSN deals and saw the Fire leave after last season as MLS made an exclusive overall rights deal with Apple. In recent weeks, WGN has been airing a Saturday afternoon package of HBCU college basketball games.