CW Network, LIV Golf announce TV partnership

AP file photo by Lynne Sladky / LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, left, said the second-year tour's announcement of a TV partnership with the CW Network made Thursday a "momentous day" and another step forward by the fledgling circuit.

LIV Golf has a television partner five weeks before its second season tees off, announcing Thursday it has an agreement with the CW Network to air tournaments on the weekend and stream the first rounds via the CW's app.

A television deal in the United States was seen as critical for the fledgling league. Last year, live coverage of LIV events was available only through streaming on its website and YouTube.

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 at Mayakoba, the Mexican resort that hosted a PGA Tour event from 2007 to 2022.

"This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights," Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of the league, said in a release Thursday. "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, which is backed by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, 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 median age, trailing only Fox. The CW, which is best known for syndicated programming, dates to 2006 and was named after its founding co-owners (CBS and Warner Bros.). Nexstar Media Group acquired 75% 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 its digital rights under the new contract, along with having weekday coverage of two majors: the Masters and the PGA Championship.

Fox does not have golf. It had the United States Golf Association contract — Norman was its first lead analyst — until an arrangement to sell that to NBC. The USGA sanctions the U.S. Open.

CW president Dennis Miller said in a release that the "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."

Miller also noted this is the first time in the network's 17-year history that it "will be the exclusive broadcast home for live mainstream sports."

Norman touted a "full broadcast deal" for a league that began last June and now enters the debut season of its emphasis on team competition.

Money does not appear to be an issue with LIV, which has spent some $1 billion in signing major champions such as Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith.

LIV 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% of LIV Golf.

LIV has 48 players who comprise the 12 teams. Tournaments are 54 holes (as opposed to 72 on the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour) with a shotgun start, no cut 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 to be determined is how many additional players from the PGA Tour or the Europe-based DP World Tour leave the established circuits for the LIV. The newer series also awaits an answer from the Official World Golf Ranking as to whether it will be included with other tours in players gaining points from its events.