Once reported to be at the center of a network bidding war, LIV Golf has announced it is now moving live events to YouTube, where the Saudi-backed rival started in 2022 before striking a deal multi-year revenue share with the CW. Network back in January.
That CW deal remains in effect, according to Golf Monthly, but the tour will now also stream tournaments on YouTube, starting with this week’s DC event at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia.
Curiously, viewers in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South Korea will have to pay $3 a day to view the tournament on YouTube, ostensibly so LIV Golf can protect existing broadcast and streaming offerings.
Fans can also watch for free on the LIV Golf Plus app, but the various viewing arrangements are a far cry from the huge TV rights deal that CEO Greg Norman envisioned a few months earlier.
In September, Norman told ESPN that LIV Golf was receiving “tremendous” interest from the networks.
Patrick Reed hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during the Pro-Am tournament in Washington
Despite its alliance with former President Donald Trump, LIV Golf is struggling to attract fans
Smash GC’s Brooks Koepka is pictured as he arrives at the clubhouse in Virginia
“We talk to four different networks — and live conversations where deals are put on the table,” he said. ‘Because [the networks] can see the value of our product, they can see what we offer.’
However, the CW’s ratings for LIV Golf events were miserable, dropping 24% week-over-week until just 409,000 viewers watched a March tournament in Tucson, according to Golf.com.
Now, LIV Golf is no longer reporting viewership data after claiming that Nielsen’s viewership metrics were inaccurate.
Despite LIV Golf’s struggles, the fledgling tour remains a major topic on the PGA Tour, in part because LIV Golf player Brooks Koepka recently won the PGA Championship.
But even with the presence of fan favorites like Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, not to mention the occasional appearances by former President Donald Trump, LIV Golf continues to struggle to attract fans.
By comparison, LIV Golf drew 40,000 fans to an event in Tulsa while the PGA Tour hosted 150,000 at an event in Dallas, according to Joe Pompliano of Pomp Investment.
LIV Golf CEO and Commissioner Greg Norman struggled to gain supporters in 2023
LIV Golf media director Will Staeger said the upstart tour could boost its visibility by returning to YouTube.
“Expanding the availability of live coverage of LIV Golf on YouTube marks another step in the innovative way we are making our groundbreaking competition available to viewers,” Staeger said. “LIV Golf is a global league made up of some of the biggest stars in the game, and that supports our goal of bringing the sport we love to more people in more places around the world.”
Golfweek Magazine reported last year that LIV was close to reaching a deal with Fox Sports to buy airtime, six years after the network parted ways with former PGA star Norman.
Despite efforts by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to broker a deal between the two sides, no deal could be reached.
Western media and golf commentators have repeatedly criticized the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour for its corruption and human rights abuses, as well as its efforts to improve its image as a worldwide reputation through sport.
Last year, in August, David Feherty admitted in an interview with the Toledo Blade that the main reason for his move from NBC Sports to LIV was money, although he was an employee of the American television network for seven years.
Trump takes photos with his son Eric as they compete in the Pro-Am tournament
“I hear, ‘Well, that makes the game grow.’ Bulls ***,” said the 64-year-old Northern Irishman. “They paid me a lot of money.”
The tour is also embroiled in a legal battle with the PGA Tour over interference in its player contracts. While the PGA is accused of violating antitrust laws by banning LIV players from its tour, the preeminent golf tour has thwarted its Saudi-backed rivals, accusing the outfit of interfering with its deals.
Players who defected to LIV Golf have been banned from PGA events, but they can still play in major tournaments, provided they meet the qualifying criteria.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the fund that finances LIV Golf, were also named in the lawsuit in October.