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A Mere Phone Call Won’t Do: Super Bowl Slaps Reality Back Into PGAT and LIV Golf, An Imminent Merger Needed

Published 01/14/2024, 2:45 PM EST

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Reportedly, Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, and PIF chief Yasir Al Rumayyan had a “lengthy” phone conversation recently. For the first time since June. The dialogue, as Keith Pelley, DP World Tour CEO, revealed, has pushed the PGAT-LIV Golf deal talks forward. The outgoing executive also revealed that Monahan and Rumayyan were slated to meet before Christmas, as the PGA Tour commissioner said in the New York Times Dealbook summit. But as we have seen, that talk didn’t happen.

Nevertheless, Pelley’s admission to The Telegraph that he has been asked to stay three more months hints that all the parties are hoping to reach a breakthrough before the Masters. All the better for the golf world, as the extended negotiations have pushed all the other issues to the sidelines, foremost the broadcasting woes of both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf.

Is LIV Golf going up against the NFL?

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LIV Golf’s decision to host the Las Vegas event shocked many. The breakaway league will broadcast the events in prime time but on tape delay on CW’s network, as Sports Business Journal’s Josh Carpenter tweeted. However, to watch it live, LIVGolf+ is the only option, which raises questions about the sustainability of such a model.

The upstart league has historically struggled to find broadcasters. Most of the major networks, CBS, NBC, and ESPN have outstanding ties with the PGA Tour, which might cause a conflict of interest.

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Secondly, Fox Sports, though it doesn’t air any Tour events, has obligations to cover the NFL, MLB, and other major established sports in the United States. The only option left for LIV Golf was CW, which previously hadn’t benefited the PIF-funded league much.

Where does LIV Golf stand with respect to the NFL?

Why are media rights important? Data suggest that the PGA Tour rakes in as much as 41% of the league’s estimated revenue of $2.3 billion from broadcasting rights. The NFL, meanwhile, has secured more than $125 billion through 2033 after securing multipole media rights.

Pro Football remains the undisputed king in America. Forbes reported that in 2022, 82 of the top 100 most-watched broadcasts were of the NFL. Last year, Nielsen reported that 113.06 million people tuned in for the Super Bowl, which Fox Sports put at 115.1 million.

On the flipside, LIV Golf notched its peak audience of 3.2 million across three days of Mayakoba last year. Since then, the breakaway league has struggled to gain an audience. A lot of the credit goes to the poor broadcasting and shoddy coverage that came as a corollary to forging a deal with CW.

LIV Golf’s persistent broadcasting problems

The fact that playoffs are the most-watched parts of a golf tournament is a no-brainer. At last year’s LIV Tulsa, the hype was arguably too great. Cameron Smith wiped off Dustin Johnosn’s five-shot lead on the back nine, joined by South African Brendan Grace, to force a three-way playoff.

That’s also when a message popped up that streaming was also available on the CW app. Perplexed viewers understood the reason a little later when the major broadcasters abruptly cut off the coverage and went ahead with their regular schedule.

In retrospect, that was to be expected. By LIV Golf’s own admission, CW is a “secondary network” lacking experience in sports broadcasting. The LIV attorneys, besides blaming the PGA Tour’s Thierry Pascal for sabotaging their talks with future partners, also accused the Tour of illegally thwarting their attempts to gain a live audience.

The lawsuits, of course, were rendered null and void after the merger agreement. Nevertheless, as LIV Golf stayed with CW for the next season, this indicates that the breakaway league hasn’t been able to convince other broadcasters. Or, both parties are waiting until the agreement is reached to forge a new TV deal.

Notably, the Tour already has deals with ESPN, CBS, and NBC running through 2030. And like its counterpart, the PGA Tour has consistently faced massive backlash for its poor coverage. Fans have repeatedly pointed out that the current broadcasts prioritize commercials over actual game coverage. Instead of going up against the NFL juggernaut, it would be wise for the future entity to take a leaf out of the pro football league’s book.

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How the NFL is tackling the commercial problem

The pro football league had its first commercial-free fourth quarter in the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers games. Once again, the NBC-only Wild Card game this weekend will go commercial-free in the fourth quarter. A branded moment acknowledging the sponsors was picked as the replacement. Fans got an additional 12 minutes of game coverage and 40% fewer ads.

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It was already a hit with PGA Tour pro Michael S. Kim, who even chimed in with his own suggestion. Undoubtedly, after the warring parties reach an agreement, broadcasting coverage should take priority, along with ironing out the fate of banned players and sponsorship issues. But for that to happen quickly, merger talks need to speed up.

Watch This Story: Tiger Woods’ Upcoming League Boosted by the PGA Tour and a Tour Pro Pose a Huge Threat to LIV Golf 

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Written by:

Parnab Bhattacharya

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One take at a time

I, Parnab Bhattacharya, am a budding golf writer at EssentiallySports. I am keen on constantly exploring my deep-rooted love for golf through my long-time passion for writing. With a strong knack for storytelling and experience in SEO content writing, I bring a unique blend of fluent writing and technical expertise.
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Edited by:

Sheldon Pereira

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