LIV Golf made their CW debut this weekend with their 2023 season-opening event in Mayakoba.
The fanfare was limited thanks to many prime CW affiliates choosing to skip coverage, but that was always to be expected. The real key, given all the crowing from exec Greg Norman and others, would be if the ability to land any kind of network TV deal in the United States, no matter how unfavorable the terms for LIV, would draw more viewers than streaming on YouTube.
Saturday’s second round coverage was the first test there, and the overnight numbers were, uh, not great:
Listen, that’s bad. There’s just no way to spin it otherwise, despite what LIV and the various outlets they’ve managed to rope into defending them in the face of reality will almost certainly try to do. Not to mention bots on Twitter, or various golf journalists who feel the need to “both sides” the situation.
This isn’t a small venture trying to build slowly and sturdily. LIV Golf has spent billions and generated plenty of coverage and attention while grabbing recognizable players over the past year or so. They’ve already had an entire season to connect with fans. They even had a major awareness boost as a strong presence in Netflix’s PGA Tour docuseries Full Swing, which a league with more inherent appeal and demand might have been able to draft off of for viewership, at least for one event.
Instead: nope. None of that. Sunday’s final round could potentially do better, but with a sleepy LIV finish and the fact that it’s directly up against the PGA Tour on NBC for the attention of golf fans and other casuals, it seems unlikely.
This just isn’t a serious venture. One of the core tenets of writing is to show, not tell. LIV’s executive team, Saudi backers, marketing strategy, players, and everyone else involved has done a fantastic job telling the sports world that they’re a serious rival to the PGA Tour, with an ability to appeal to a younger audience by virtue of various structural changes, a team format, and globe-trotting outlook.
After a whole year, though, we have things like Saturday’s round, which felt much more like a local access infomercial than anything else. I compared it to a PBS community spotlight, while No Laying Up’s D.J. Piehowski noted that the whole thing would be much more palatable as a self-aware packaged product, leaning into all the weird shit they’ve decided to do.
That’s never going to happen, though. This winter saw the departure of some of the only adults in the boardroom, and that should have been a strong sign that LIV was never going to get it together. We’re well past the time for telling. LIV needs to start showing a potential audience why they should be tuning in.
Nothing about what they’ve put out has come close to doing that, and considering the general lack of awareness on display from everyone with decision-making power, that’s not likely to change.