Uneasy PGA-LIV Golf Merger: Where Does This Leave Sensitive TV Networks -- And Advertisers?

Professional golf on television worldwide just became more complicated -- as the U.S.-based PGA Tour has agreed in principle to merge with the upstart, controversial LIV Golf group.

Is it all really about the Benjamins?

The two-year-old LIV Golf, backed by a multibillion-dollar Saudi-based investment fund, was already controversial because of the multimillion-dollar guaranteed contract going to some big-name players. 

In addition, like other sports, under the LIV Golf system, athletes can get paid when they are not playing -- like when they get injured or when they don't make the cut after the first two rounds.

All this surely put PGA Tour in a disadvantaged position -- and is why it made a move. The big Saudi-backed dollars of LIV put the PGA Tour on the backfoot. That money will eventually draw more players. LIV's staying power will only grow. 



The proposed deal also includes merging with the European golf-based league -- DP World Tour.

Going forward, what does this mean regarding the fringe and not-so-fringe Saudi-based issues, considering the Saudi connection with the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi -- as well as the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. and other human rights concerns?

Critics complain that the association of Saudi Arabia with professional golf is equivalent to “sports-washing.” 

Meanwhile, there is no let-up on ever-higher sports franchises’ right fees for TV networks, with programming that consistently gets decent and valued, live, linear TV viewing.

The CW is currently airing the second season of LIV Golf for the first time on U.S. television.

PGA Tour tournaments and content air on CBS, NBC, ESPN, Golf Channel, as well as associated  streamers -- Paramount+, Peacock, and ESPN+. 

From June 2022-June 2023, PGA Tour golf on CBS and Paramount+ amassed an estimated $257.4 million in national TV advertising revenue, according to EDO Ad EnGage -- down 17% from the same 12-month period before.

NBC's Golf Channel national TV advertising revenues was at $200.3 million up 4.1% versus the 12-month period before.

Since the beginning of the year, LIV Golf has pulled $5.2 million in national TV advertising revenue on The CW.

All this begs the question: Where does this leave sensitive ad-supported TV networks -- especially when it comes to those big spending marketers -- going forward?

Will they have any issues -- brand-wise -- from some consumers’ potential blowback who may be a bit more aware of Saudi Arabia's association with golf? 

Perhaps nothing will come of this. After all, money easily sways those in sports and business -- most times above anything else.

1 comment about "Uneasy PGA-LIV Golf Merger: Where Does This Leave Sensitive TV Networks -- And Advertisers?".
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  1. Jonathan Bouman from Oodle, June 8, 2023 at 2:37 p.m.

    As a USGA member, I think this is horrible for the future of the game. Getting in bed with murderers and terrorists doesn't sit well with me, and I hope major brands agree. However, they just follow the eyeballs.

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