Shock merger with PGA Tour and DP World Tour could see similar innovations brought to other competitions

LIV Golf

LIV Golf, the PGA Tour, and the DP World Tour announced a shock merger this week, surprising many following the latter two’s battle against LIV Golf since its founding in 2021.

Broadcasters’ reluctance to air LIV Golf, perhaps due to their relationships with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, left the competition having to innovate to reach fans. Free online streaming, via YouTube, its website, and an app, was an important aspect of this, and LIV Golf worked with tech company ViewLift to make sure that all went smoothly in the absence of a traditional broadcaster - as well as acting as an advertisement to show broadcasters what they could get. 

ViewLift was brought in just two weeks before LIV Golf’s opening event in 2022, revealed ViewLift CEO Rick Allen to Broadcast Sport before the merger was announced, and tasked with creating a mobile app, LIV Golf+, as well as live and on-demand online streaming and providing feeds to YouTube. For the first season, the latter was the priority, simply so that there was a way for viewers to watch the sport without it being on traditional TV in many markets and due to time constraints.

This was built on for the 2023 season, said Allen: “For season one it was barebones, mainly web, but for season two we’ve looked at native apps, mobile, and getting onto other devices such as smart TVs etc. We also want to bring in more live feeds from specific holes, and different cameras on teams, ranges, and practice greens.”

LIV Golf app

“The product is always evolving, both the sport and the service that we provide.”

Other innovations “in process” according to Allen include enhanced interactivity and fan engagement through polls, trivia, prediction games, and more.

In just the first three events there was 50 hours of live broadcasts that had to go smoothly, and  this meant that D2C was vital. Allen mentioned, “With three day events, there just isn’t enough space on a linear channel.”

While it is unilikely that a combined competition will continue this free-to-air model, it did show rapid growth in its time. There were over one million views in the first season, and between the first event and third there was a 64% growth in stream users. The app also grew quickly, with an 82% increase in downloads over the first six weeks.

The success of the app was also mentioned by Will Staeger, LIV’s chief media officer, who told Broadcast Sport: “LIV Golf has been a disruptor brand from our inception. That characteristic is true in distribution as well. Working with ViewLift, we were able to launch our LIV Golf+ app for our second season, which quickly rose to the most downloaded sports app in multiple territories around the world.

“Available in both the Apple and Android stores, LIV Golf + showcases our brand as an innovator able to reach a global audience on their device of choice - and we are learning so much more about our fan base through them than traditional TV provides. We have now added hole feeds, team feeds, and other alternate and original programming on the app, providing all access to our competition and players to our viewers.”

The PGA Tour also rebuilt its app ahead of its 2023 season, focusing on video and visual storytelling as LIV Golf has done - albeit without the live golf itself due to broadcasters’ holding the rights. With the merger now going ahead, it is possible there could be even more focus on golf going D2C.