The CW gets into the sports business with LIV Golf deal

Yes, this logo is real. The CW is actually in the sports biz.


Nexstar’s The CW officially announced a deal with the controversial LIV Golf, putting them in the sports business for the very first time. 

LIV Golf is a Saudi Arabia-funded rival to the PGA Tour, who has broadcast deals with CBS, NBC, and others. What makes this controversial is Saudi Arabia is accused of covering up a murder of a prominent journalist and funding the 9/11 attacks as numerous professional golfers and others have objected to the league. Up to this point, LIV Golf had been streaming their events online on YouTube as they were unable to find a broadcast partner. But all of this changed when Nexstar bought a controlling stake in The CW, a youth-oriented network formed in 2006 by the merger of UPN and The WB and expressed a desire to broaden their reach. 

“This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights,” LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said in a statement, and one of those former PGA golfers who defected to the controversial league. “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. We’re very proud to note how consequential it is that a league that has only existed for one year has secured a full broadcast deal in its debut full league season.”

In a great scenario for The CW, the network pays no money upfront but is in a revenue-sharing agreement with LIV, who’ll likely produce the matches themselves. 

The CW/LIV Golf deal echoes a similar one when Fox, who was also looking to broaden their audience, stunned the media world by outbidding CBS for NFC games in December 1993 for over $1 billion, ending a 38-year relationship dating back to 1956. Nearly six months later with the NFL in hand, Fox was able to convince twelve New World-owned Big 3 network stations to affiliate with them with CBS losing eight stations as a result. LIV Golf presents an opportunity not only for The CW, but cross-promotional ones for primary NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox stations who are in a duopoly with a CW affiliate. 

On the downside, golf isn’t exacting a younger-skewing sport and traditionally draws older audiences, particularly in the 55+ demo. However, linear TV is skewing older these days as younger viewers are abandoning the medium, so this may not be a bad thing. Nexstar has expressed a desire to broaden The CW’s audience to attract more 25-54 viewers as up to this point, known more for younger-skewing fare such as Gossip Girl, Riverdale, and The Vampire Diaries. And the aforementioned duopoly cross-promotion could help.

Another downside is the controversial baggage LIV Golf brings as it may have trouble attracting advertising as the National Press Club blasted Nexstar Thursday evening on the deal. “We are left to wonder what if anything Nexstar stands for. You cannot have a brand in news and act this way”, the organization said in a release. Nexstar owns WGN-TV and WGN Radio in Chicago and 196 other television stations around the country.

The CW begins LIV Golf coverage February 24, primarily airing on weekend afternoons with fourteen matches planned – the first takes place in Mexico at the Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleon course in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. In Chicago, LIV Golf can be seen on Weigel Broadcasting’s WCIU, or CW 26.

This post was updated at 10:21 p.m. 


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