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LIV Golf made eyes squint and ears perk up when it reported an audience of 3.2 million viewers for its season-opening event, especially after some early, unflattering reports.

The upstart circuit, now in its second season but first as the re-branded LIV Golf League, signed a multi-year revenue-sharing TV deal with the CW in January and was criticized for waiting five days after the conclusion of its LIV Golf Mayakoba event in Mexico to release its numbers, but that was the plan all along.

“This is why we wanted to be thorough and take our time and not leap or react to initial stories which were incomplete,” explained LIV Golf’s Chief Media Officer, Will Staeger. “The way that we are distributed on Nexstar and CW platforms includes both the CW affiliates throughout the country, but also a web of Nexstar owned stations and some independent stations.”

“So just taking a small sample is just not going to be accurate given the distribution strategy of our partner on linear,” he continued, noting how some Nexstar stations, like WGN in Chicago, are more widely viewed than CW affiliates. “So those numbers were not taken into account from the small sample.”

It’s also important to note which numbers were used. LIV reported 3.2 million total viewers across the three days, while the early Nielsen numbers were average-minute audience, the industry standard. LIV is also using iSpot, a TV ad measurement and analytics company that offers a different way to measure viewership compared to Nielsen.

“iSpot has a broader glimpse of the way viewers view content than simply the panel process,” said Staeger. “These numbers take into account not only the Nexstar stations and the combination of CW and Nexstar, but also set top boxes, connected TVs, out of home and video players, so the attempt here is to be comprehensive and thorough.”

The result? Reports of 1.6 million total viewers for Saturday’s second round and 1.3 million total viewers for Sunday’s final round. According to Nielsen, the CW’s weekend primetime national ratings were up 24 percent compared to the network’s weekend season-to-date average.

“It’s a very good start in that sense and our strategy seems to be working. The other piece of the puzzle is this is just a start. It’s a long-term growth curve for a new league,” said Staeger. “We’ve had our expectations in the realm of reality, and these numbers exceeded our expectations.

“We thought it was a great strategy in 2022, in our beta season, to put the product out where people could find it for free, and YouTube was one of the better ways of doing that. We’re pretty proud of the numbers that we tallied, but we’re talking 20 times what we saw in viewership, just on the first weekend, by being on a broadcast network in 120 million homes. So it’s a big growth step for us.”

LIV is known for its bold and brash moves, but Staeger stressed the importance of incremental growth going forward as the league develops.

“For us, it’s about doubling down on letting fans and non-fans who haven’t discovered us yet, let them know where to find us. It’s really about getting that message out,” said Staeger, who also spoke the company line and praised LIV’s 54-hole, shotgun start format. “I think it’s the product for the next generation of golf fans, and it respects the heritage of the game and the core viewers who’ve grown up on the incumbent properties in the sport. So it’s a really good start.”

LIV will return to the U.S. for its second event, Marc 17-19 at the Gallery Golf Club in Marana, Arizona.

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