As Chris Kirk and Eric Cole faced off in a playoff at the Honda Classic on Sunday evening, the PGA Tour’s rival league was battling it out in Mexico, putting a bow on its first event of 2023. LIV Golf’s debut tournament of its second season was at Mayakoba, a former PGA Tour stop, but it was also broadcast on TV, a first for LIV following its January announcement that it had struck a deal with The CW.
It was a major step for LIV Golf, which in Year 1 was only streamed on YouTube and LIV’s own website. But as for LIV’s much-anticipated TV debut? The ratings left much to be desired.
The Saturday and Sunday broadcasts drew an average of 289,000 viewers and a .18 household rating. In comparison, the PGA Tour’s weekend broadcasts on NBC brought in just over 2 million viewers and averaged a 1.24 household rating — nearly seven-times as many viewers as LIV.
Although it’s not necessarily a fair comparison at this point. The PGA Tour is established and LIV Golf is in just its second season and with its first TV deal. LIV Golf’s first-round action on Friday won’t be broadcast on The CW — just the weekend rounds — and the network’s many markets aren’t required to pick up the coverage. Several, at least for this first event, did not.
According to the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand, 26 markets carried the Saturday coverage.
But the first-event numbers have not deterred Nexstar, The CW’s parent company.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nexstar CEO Perry Sook discussed the ratings on an earnings call on Tuesday.
“Those numbers exceeded our expectations and, and most importantly, the affiliates as well as our own stations were thrilled,” said Sook, who added that 1.4 million people watched at least a few minutes on either The CW app or the broadcast during the three-day tournament. “I know that our affiliates and CW affiliates in the top 10 markets generated about three times the amount of money that the network generated for this first outing, and so it’s selling very well, and you know, and I think will continue to grow as we get more into the season and more involved.”
The CW extends to more than 120 million U.S. households. LIV Golf’s chief media officer Will Staeger spoke to GOLF’s James Colgan about the deal last month and said that kind of reach is crucial to LIV Golf extending its viewership.
“There’s a strong promotional commitment the CW is going to put into place. Virtually everybody within the organization, from executive ranks on down, is enthusiastic about our products, and they expressed that really early on. They share our vision,” Staeger said. “Being their first sport, I think that enhances the situation. In a way, we’re being treated like the NFL for them. So I think that will help the ratings, and that’ll help the growth of our viewership.”
LIV Golf’s second tournament of its 14-event schedule is March 17-19 at The Gallery Golf Club in Tucson, Ariz.