(NewsNation) — LIV Golf, the upstart league backed by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, has partnered with The CW on its first-ever U.S. broadcast deal. The multi-year deal will begin with the upcoming season, which is LIV’s second.
The CW is majority-owned by NewsNation’s parent company, Nexstar Media.
It is a major development for both the network and the league, which now looks to bring its distinct spin on the sport to millions of homes across the country.
LIV Golf’s first year was rocky and spent toiling exclusively on streaming services.
“What’s great about this partnership is LIV Golf and our revolutionary coverage,” LIV Golf Chief Media Officer Will Staeger said. “Faster, more shots, innovative graphics, fantastic announce team, really educating the fan on what’s at stake with every shot.”
The deal will bring LIV tournament golf to more than 100 million homes across the country, aiming to attract a new kind of fan to pro golf.
“Not just the core golf fan who we respect and serve, but also the casual sports fan and the casual entertainment fan,” Staeger said.
Staeger added the league opted to partner with The CW because of the scope of coverage and reach the network offered compared to traditional sports broadcasters like ESPN or Fox Sports.
“We feel we’re positioning LIV Golf for the future with that broad reach, and with a committed partnership from The CW and the Nexstar partnership group,” Staeger said.
While some critics may blast the network for partnering with the league due to its financing from the Saudi Arabian government, The CW’s president, Dennis Miller, heralded the deal.
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.Dennis Miller, The CW president
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman said Thursday on NewsNation’s “Dan Abrams Live” that the TV deal was a “critical deal” for the league that will help it compete with the PGA Tour, which broadcasts on the Golf Channel, NBC and CBS.
The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have been in a bitter legal fight over the status of players who seek to play on both tours. LIV Golf sued the PGA Tour, alleging the tour has engaged in anti-competitive practices by banning its players, while the PGA Tour says LIV is the one stifling competition.
Norman said LIV Golf is “unlocking potential” by using a franchise model like the NFL and NBA, where teams have individual owners.
“This is the first time golf has ever had an incredible amount of equity invested in it,” he said. “Golf has been stuck in a box for 53 years, and just because we come along with a different format and we have an investor, for the first time equity in the game, the monopolist doesn’t like it, obviously. We’ve made a huge impact in a very short period of time.”
The league has come under heavy scrutiny over its funding source because of Saudi Arabia’s track record on humanitarian rights, and particularly the 2018 death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudi national was killed at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, and the CIA concluded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination.
Norman said on “Dan Abrams Live” he believes Saudi Arabia has learned from their mistakes.
“Before this role of being CEO, I’ve been over there building a golf course in Saudi Arabia. I was there for a reason, because they see the value of golf as a force for good, and it’s proving it out in their country today,” Norman said. “If we can use golf as a platform to grow a country, improve a country, fantastic, hallelujah.”
The CW kicks off its first year of LIV Golf coverage with LIV’s season-opening tournament from the El Camaleón Mayakoba golf course in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on Feb. 24.