LIV Golf’s recently announced television deal with the CW Network was not ideal, but was the next step in making them “legitimate,” according to an expert in sports management.
Lisa Neirotti, a professor of sports management at George Washington University, specializes in sports entrepreneurship and the importance of media rights for startup leagues. Neirotti acknowledges LIV’s partnership with CW – which is believed to be a revenue-sharing deal without a rights fee being paid – is not a “great deal,” but added oftentimes it’s necessary to give away a product to grow that product.
“We can criticize it all we want but they have been able to get themselves on a network,” said Neirotti, who has taught at George Washington for 32 years and studied LIV Golf closely the last year. “And that’s a first step for any growing sports property is to be able to get themselves on a network.
“Now it’s up to that property to bring the eyeballs to the network. The only way they are going to be able to do that is if they are able to really help promote it during different shows. So people who watch CW for news, people who watch CW for other shows, there needs to be promo spots saying tune in on Saturday at 1.”
The multiyear broadcast deal was announced Thursday. The CW Network, which has more than 200 affiliates nationwide, will air LIV’s 14 events in 2023, starting in February at Mayakoba in Mexico. The breakaway golf league headed by Greg Norman held eight events in its inaugural season of 2022. The only way to watch then was through YouTube and LIV’s own web site.
“It’s a way to test the market,” Neirotti said. “I know people say YouTube has many more viewers, or there’s a larger audience that used YouTube, but YouTube is not as popular right now for appointment TV.”
LIV is financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which invested an estimated $1.3 billion to launch the league. LIV distributed $255 million in prize money for eight events in 2022. That number will jump by about 63 percent in 2023 with purses totaling $405 million for 14 events.
One report late last summer said LIV was nearing a deal with FS1 in which LIV would purchase the time for its events and pay for production costs.
“It’s hard to get a media company to pay anything if a product hasn’t been proven,” Neirotti said. “They tried other sources and they didn’t get it. You got to start someplace.
“CW doesn’t have anything to lose and LIV has something to gain.”
The work is far from done. The success or failure of LIV on a non-traditional network – CW is known for its teen dramas and superhero shows and LIV will be its first sports property – could be determined by how much promotion CW’s parent company, Nexstar Media Group, dedicates to its new product.
“You have to grab people’s attention,” Neirotti said. “How are they going to get people to come watch the show now that you’re on? And they weren’t successful in trying to get people to go to YouTube.”
And attracting sponsorship is critical and if LIV is responsible for securing some or the majority of advertisers as has been reported, it can now lure companies with not only signage and tickets and hospitality, but also offering commercial time.
“I think as they become mainstay or legitimate then more people are going to be looking at is as an advertising medium,” Neirotti said.
“It’s not a huge win for LIV in terms of financial windfall,” she added. “It’s the next step in making them legitimate. They are now on a network. The next thing now is to get people to tune in but in order to do that they have to promote it though Nexstar’s consortium.”
Tom D’Angelo is the sports columnist for The Palm Beach Post. He can be reached at [email protected]