We are in the golden age of television rights for sports leagues and entities across the world. Because live sports is something that requires viewers to watch as the action happens, as opposed to from the DVR or on-demand nature of something on Netflix or Hulu, advertisers have flooded pro sports globally with massive rates that have led to the increased value of leagues and teams everywhere.
And then there is LIV Golf, who just signed a no-cash guarantee deal with the somewhat-difficult-to-find CW Network. But to be fair, LIV and CW added 14 stations on non-CW channels in major markets, so coverage isn’t really that much of an issue here. And their first week out of the box on American television?
It’s, uh, not great!
LIV Golf's season debut on The CW averaged a 0.18 rating and less than 300,000 viewers.— Front Office Sports (@FOS) February 28, 2023
“World’s Funniest Animals” and a rerun of “Masters of Illusion” outdrew LIV. pic.twitter.com/5Dv5akuhAc
But let’s be fair to the human rights violators that have spent nearly a billion dollars trying to become The Next Big Thing in golf:
LIV is also now valuing each of their 12 “team” franchises at, well, something, and they’re for sale if you’re interested. But it’s probably not a great look if the marketing and advertising being done on player uniforms and bags via the teams isn’t being seen by anyone but the caddies and families in the gallery.
As a comparison, the XFL is a minor league football product. Unlike LIV, they’re not looking to compete with the NFL as a top-tier global sports entity. And it’s probably fair to say The Rock, his ex-wife, and their partners have spent at worst 90+% less on the third iteration of the league they bought for $15 million in 2020. Also let’s not forget the TV production this week for the game in Las Vegas was plagued with issues as well.
But here are their TV numbers during their second week, even after the novelty factor of Week 1 went away.
Breaking: #XFL Week Two TV Ratings on Sunday:— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) February 28, 2023
Orlando/SA (ESPN): 781,000
Houston/Arlington (ESPN2): 678,000
As previously reported per @ByMikeMitchell, Seattle/St. Louis had 553k viewers on Thursday. Vegas/DC number on FX is still unknown.
You tell me where you’d rather invest your money as a budding sports owner.
To be fair much of it doesn’t really matter, as LIV appears to have a bottomless pit of cash to draw on from the Saudi Public Investment Fund. They’re pumping at least $2 billion into this project, and expenses will be far less in Year 2 as the marquee names such as Dustin Johnson and Cameron Smith aren’t getting another round of guaranteed nine-figure paychecks for several more seasons.
But these numbers remain terrible, and while the production value is excellent and the format can be appealing, the quality of the sport being played right now about equivalent to the XFL compared to the NFL. Just with some Jared Goff and Dak Prescott-level QB’s mixed in too.
If LIV is going to make it, they’ve got to start to show some traction. Blowing off the murder of journalists probably isn’t the way to gather needed mainstream and corporate support. There was probably a space for a competitor to the PGA TOUR. And let’s face it, as Phil Mickelson rightly pointed out, they’ve foisted some change on the legacy league that was badly needed.
But actually become legitimate competition in both boardrooms and living rooms seems a long, long way away.