LIV Golf’s TV ratings already on life support as Saudi-funded league pales vs. PGA Tour viewership

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The Saudi-funded LIV Golf tour began its second season last weekend at the El Camaleon course in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, airing for the first time on the CW Television Network.

In its inaugural season, LIV Golf streamed on its own YouTube channel and the DAZN paid streaming platform. The LIV broadcasts are also a new frontier for the CW Network, which hadn’t carried sports.

The initial viewership numbers don’t paint the prettiest picture for LIV Golf. In the 1 p.m. window Saturday, LIV drew only 286,000 viewers and attracted only 291,000 in the same time slot Sunday. The Friday round, meanwhile, streamed only on the LIV Golf app.

The LIV event was competing against two PGA Tour broadcasts, both of which outdrew LIV. According to Nielsen estimates from entertainment news and data blog Showbuzz Daily, the lead-in for the PGA Tour Honda Classic drew 555,000 viewers on the Golf Channel in the Saturday 1 p.m. time slot and 631,000 in the Sunday 1 p.m. time slot.

The Honda Classic itself, aired at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on NBC, attracted significantly more viewers; 1.6 million Saturday and 2.38 million Sunday.

Some CW affiliates didn’t even air the LIV rounds. While affiliates are obligated to air primetime content, the same does not apply to LIV action.

All in all, Nexstar Media, owner of the CW Network, was pleased with the first results in its multiyear deal with LIV Golf; 13 more LIV events will be aired this year.

“LIV Golf was viewed by over 1.4 million total viewers. … Compared to the average linear golf game on television year-to-date, LIV Golf’s two-day average linear viewership was 24% higher than the average. And important for us, the linear broadcast ratings increased 21% from Saturday to Sunday,” Nexstar Media CEO Perry Sook said on a Tuesday earnings call.

The deal itself is atypical for sports rights on TV. The CW pays nothing to LIV, and the two entities are splitting advertising revenue. Tournaments held outside the U.S. air on a delayed basis, and LIV is paying for its own production fees, according to Golf Digest.

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