All Some eyes are on LIV Golf.
After searching for a TV partner for almost all of 2022, LIV Golf landed a two-year deal with The CW beginning with the 2023 season. The fit seemed suspect, for three reasons.
The first is that The CW didn't previously have any sports programming. The network is known for airing mostly teen dramas and DC Comics TV series.
The second is that LIV Golf doesn't broadcast all rounds of its tournaments on live TV. Round 1 is streamed exclusively on The CW app, The CW's website and LIV Golf's app.
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The third is that while The CW reaches as many homes as CBS or NBC does, that doesn't necessarily mean that all of The CW's affiliates are carrying LIV Golf.
Take all of that, throw it in a pot and mix it up, and you get the TV ratings fiasco that LIV Golf has dealt with in 2023.
It would be easy to point at their viewership numbers and laugh, but there's a lot more that goes into the equation. Here's a look:
LIV Golf TV ratings
LIV's TV ratings — which include viewership, demographic numbers and household shares — are something of a mystery. That's partly because the league opted to stop reporting viewership numbers in March, just a few tournaments into the 2023 LIV Golf season.
And there is a lot more to the mystery. LIV Golf self-reported ratings using iSpot rather than Nielsen, the standard-bearer for TV ratings in the U.S. Some advertisers and entities prefer iSpot because it attempts to measure a wider audience than what Nielsen records.
To that end, there are ways to finagle numbers. iSpot utilizes a metric known as "Total Reach," which measures how many viewers watch at least one minute of a broadcast. That's an unreliable way to measure overall audience. Consider: How many times have you left the TV on the same station after finishing watching your favorite soap opera? How many times have you fallen asleep in front of the TV?
That's why the numbers surrounding LIV's opening event in Mayakoba, Mexico, were met with confusion. While Nielsen will average the number of viewers who watch a single broadcast — which speaks to viewer retention — LIV turned to total audience over the course of the weekend.
LIV Golf reported total viewership for the Mayakoba tournament in March to be 3.2 million viewers, a gaudy number. The league also said that it averaged 537,000 viewers over Saturday and Sunday, which aired on broadcast TV.
The Scranton Business Journal reported that LIV drew 286,000 viewers on Saturday and 291,000 viewers on Sunday, a far cry from what LIV reported. Typically, ratings are best observed on a day-by-day breakdown, less so by combining two days — you get a clearer picture of who's coming and going.
To complicate things further: The CW is one of five major broadcast networks that reach every home in the U.S., alongside CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC, but that doesn't mean that LIV Golf is viewable in every household.
In the U.S., eight CW affiliates (per Deadline.com), or about a third of the network's affiliates, are owned and operated by CBS, which is a PGA Tour rights holder. Because of that partnership, just 68 percent of The CW affiliates broadcast LIV Golf events. So, even though LIV Golf has a partnership with The CW, that doesn't mean that every viewer who gets The CW can watch LIV Golf.
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Adding to the complications is that Nielsen measures the time frame in which a LIV Golf event will take place across all CW affiliates. In markets where the network is owned by CBS or other media conglomerates, LIV Golf may not be part of the programming in the 1-6 p.m. ET window during which a LIV Golf event airs. That affects about 24 million homes.
All of this is to say that there are no definitive overall numbers for LIV Golf in 2023. Even worse, there's a very small sample size of reported numbers because of the league's decision not to report TV ratings the past two months. LIV's decision to use iSpot numbers, which also includes watching out of home (if you're at a bar, for example), adds to the confusion.
The average viewership of LIV Golf on The CW for the first two events of the 2023 season (via Sports Business Journal, citing Nielsen):
|Mayakoba||Saturday, Feb. 25||2 (Saturday)||286,000|
|Sunday, Feb. 26||3 (Sunday)||291,000|
|Tucson||Saturday, March 18||2 (Saturday)||284,000|
|Sunday, March 19||3 (Sunday)||274,000|
There are other factors involved, including streaming, app and DVR data, that make the picture even murkier
Suffice to say, the LIV Golf ratings question hasn't been answered, at least not in full. The league will have at least one more year with The CW to figure it out, but the early (and limited) returns are … not great.