Nexstar’s CW Network Agrees To Carry Controversial LIV Golf

Greg Norman in 2002
Greg Norman is president and commissioner of LIV Golf (Image credit: Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)

Confirming persistent reports, Nexstar Media Group’s The CW Network said it reached a deal to televise tournaments staged by Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

LIV Golf has been controversial because of its financing from the Saudi Public Investment Fund — seen by some as spending millions to “sports-wash” the kingdom’s record of human rights violations.

LIV Golf has used the Saudi money to spend big to lure top golfers away from the PGA, creating a civil war within the sport.

As a result, the bigger TV networks and streaming services were reluctant to do a deal with LIV Golf.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but according to sources familiar with the deal the CW will not be paying LIV Golf a traditional rights fee to televise the tournaments. Instead a revenue sharing arrangement has been created.

LIV Golf produces the telecasts of its events with an in-house team. Last year, the tournaments were streamed on YouTube. LIV Golf’s  announcers include Arlo White, David Feherty, Jerry Foltz, Dom Boulet, Su-Ann Heng and Troy Mullins.

Nexstar acquired a majority interest in the CW last summer and installed Dennis Miller as president and brought in Brad Schwartz as president for entertainment. Under Nexstar, the network is expected to shift its programming strategy, which had been aimed at using scripted shows to attract younger viewers.

LIV Golf would give the CW a shot at sports programming, which has held audiences more than other programming on traditional TV.

Under the deal the CW will televise 14 LIV Golf Events on the CW networks and on The CW App starting February 24.

In the official announcement of the deal, Saudi Arabia is not mentioned.

“Our new partnership between The CW and LIV Golf will deliver a whole new audience and add to the growing worldwide excitement for the league. With CW’s broadcasts and streams, more fans across the country and around the globe can partake in the LIV Golf energy and view its innovative competition that has reimagined the sport for players, fans and the game of golf,” said CW President Miller.

“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,” Miller said.

The LIV Tour has attracted top players including Dustin Johnson, Cam Smith, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia.

Its first tournament will be played February 24-26 at the Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleon course in Mexico.

“This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights. The CW’s nationwide reach as America’s fifth broadcast network, will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners,” said Greg Norman, CEO and commissioner of LIV Golf. “The CW recognizes the enormous interest in and potential of our league and with their support, more fans will experience the energy and innovative competition that LIV Golf is using to reinvigorate the sport. The CW is a world-class media partner, and we are honored to be joining forces to further bring LIV Golf to life as they stake their claim in professional sports.”

Future events will be held at The Gallery Golf Club in Tucson, Arizona; The Grange Golf Club in Adelaide, Australia; Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore; Cedar Ridge Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Real Club Valderrama in Spain and The Old White Course at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

“Our new multi-year partnership with The CW will unlock our ability to serve both core golf fans and to reach the casual sports and entertainment viewer as part of our mission to grow the sport,” said Will Staeger, chief media officer of LIV Golf. “Our innovative product attracts a younger viewership demographic to the table than the traditional golf fan, and we’re thrilled to be part of The CW’s growth into its new era of sports programming featuring the biggest stars in golf and our industry-leading storytelling and format.” ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.