LIV Golf is on the verge of announcing a much-coveted television broadcast deal that would see its 14 league events in 2023 shown on an over-the-air cable network that is in more than 220 U.S. markets.
Multiple sources have told Sports Illustrated that The CW Network, which is known more for syndicated programming and has no other sports properties, will agree to a multi-year agreement to broadcast LIV Golf events and related programming.
Sports Business Journal recently reported the association between LIV Golf and CW Network and broadcast analyst David Feherty dropped a hint during a West Palm Beach, Florida, comedy appearance. “Have you heard of CW?’’ he said, according to the Palm Beach Post. “I might get fired for this, but…’’
LIV Golf officials have not confirmed the CW Network deal and have only said an announcement is coming soon.
The rebranded LIV Golf League begins on Feb. 24 with its first event in Mexico at a resort near Cancun. LIV Golf has yet to announce both its full 14-event schedule and the entire 48-player lineup for its 12-team league.
A television broadcast deal is part of an important offseason. During its inaugural invitational series season, LIV Golf was only available via streaming on YouTube and the LIV Golf website. Viewership numbers were poor, despite enormous production costs associated with the venture.
In a surprise move, Feherty, a long-time analyst, left NBC and Golf Channel following the British Open to join the LIV Golf team. In an interview with the Toledo Blade, he admitted the reason was money. “I hear, ‘Well, it’s grow the game.’ Bulls—-. They paid me a lot of money,” he said.
Feherty, who is from Northern Ireland and played professionally, including at the 1991 Ryder Cup, told SI in an interview late last year that he simply saw a unique opportunity.
“I’ve covered all the majors,’’ he said. “I covered the Winter Olympics, the Summer Olympics. Why I was at the Winter Olympics… I have no idea. The biathlon and the ski jump. But the Presidents Cup, the Ryder Cup, all the playoff events. The Players. There was nothing else left for me to do except this.
“It was a chance to be a lead analyst. And more than anything else, to be me. To be myself. Maybe have that edginess, but to push the irreverent envelope a little bit. The shackles are off. I felt a bit constrained toward the end (at NBC) and at the end of my CBS tenure as well. I loved all of it and was incredibly lucky.’’
If the CW Network deal comes through, Feherty and LIV Golf will be part of an organization that is in 220 U.S. markets, many of which have a local news operation, website and nightly newscast.
A source told SI that the initial deal would be a revenue-sharing arrangement –without a rights fee being paid. But for LIV Golf, that is a better outcome than the various reports that it could pay Fox Sports to have its broadcasts on FS1 or FS2.
A network deal has been viewed as imperative to the league’s mission to grow its franchise model, which it is betting will one day be the big source of revenue through the sale of teams to independent owners.
To get to that point, it needs exposure as well as sponsorship revenue, things that were missing without any kind of widespread distribution.