Nielsen Ratings Currency Will Not Back LIV Golf Ad Inventory on the CW

The Saudi-backed challenger to the PGA Tour has landed a U.S. broadcast TV deal, as LIV Golf on Thursday announced it had inked a multiyear distribution pact with the CW.

Per terms of the agreement, Nexstar’s the CW will air 14 LIV Golf tournaments in 2023, and while this marks a win for the upstart venture, advertisers looking to buy into the rounds will have to adjust their expectations with regard to measurement and audience guarantees.

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Because the CW is not officially measured by Nielsen outside of its two hours of weekday primetime programming (8-10 p.m. ET), advertising inventory in and around the 54-hole LIV Golf events will be sold based on internal estimates. Moreover, a good chunk of the inventory will be housed outside the bounds of linear TV and on the CW app, which will exclusively stream the Friday rounds and virtually simulcast all the Saturday and Sunday afternoon action alongside the traditional network feed.

While the CW deal will expand LIV’s reach beyond its YouTube channel, exposure on the new platform is expected to remain limited, at least in the early going. The lowest-rated of the Big Five networks, the CW’s primetime scripted series are currently averaging a 0.07 rating in the broader TV demo, which translates to just under 100,000 adults 18-49 per show.

There’s also a great deal of work to be done on the marketing/audience-acquisition front. In its 16-year history, the successor to the UPN and WB Television Network has targeted a young, female audience with a roster of demo-tailored scripted series (Gossip GirlJane the VirginRiverdale, etc.). In recent seasons, a surge of projects based on DC Comics IP and the ongoing flight of younger viewers from traditional TV has broadened/aged up the CW’s demos; the median age of the typical primetime viewer is now 58, which is more consistent with golf’s base.

The CW has been in the midst of a redevelopment effort following Nexstar’s October 2022 acquisition of 75% of the channel from co-owners Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global. Nexstar, which looks for the CW to post a profit by 2025, is stripping out much of the network’s pricey legacy programming in exchange for older-skewing content designed to appeal to a far broader audience.

Terms of the LIV-CW deal were not disclosed, but the arrangement is said to be structured around a revenue-sharing agreement. It’s a win-win for both parties, inasmuch as the local CW affiliates are being treated to relatively inexpensive live-sports content, while LIV has secured a home on a widely distributed linear-TV platform. Under its former ownership, the CW reached around 92 million U.S. TV households; Nexstar’s stations are accessible in 120 million homes.

If the absence of Nielsen’s ratings currency will make for somewhat non-traditional ad buys for LIV marketers, the practice of selling against in-house estimates is not wholly foreign to sports TV. For the last two decades, CBS’s cable channel CBSSN has not been measured by the official backer of the $83.3 billion TV ad industry, and yet the network is an established trading post for such properties as the PGA Tour, UEFA Champions League and Big3 basketball.

“This is a momentous day for LIV Golf as this partnership is about more than just media rights,” said LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, in a statement released this morning. “The CW’s nationwide reach…will provide accessibility for our fans and maximum exposure for our athletes and partners. … With their support, more fans will experience the energy and innovative competition that LIV Golf is using to reinvigorate the sport.”

The first LIV tournament set to air on the CW is a Feb. 24-26 event held at the Norman-designed El Camaleón course in Mayakoba, Mexico. This season, LIV will continue to produce its own event coverage, which features analysts David Feherty and Jerry Foltz.

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