SBD/January 28, 2011/Media

Upcoming PGA Tour TV Negotiations Could Take On Different Tenor

Finchem has said talks will begin soon on PGA Tour's next TV deals
The PGA Tour’s “talks on new television contracts may take a different tone” with Tiger Woods having fallen to No. 3 in the world rankings and Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem “touting young players” such as Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson, according to Michael Buteau of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The Tour’s deals with CBS and NBC expire after the ’12 season, and Finchem earlier this week indicated that talks “will begin soon.” Horizon Media Senior VP/Research Brad Adgate said, “I’d play hard ball. If you’re the networks, you’ve got to sit there and say, ‘Your numbers are down, your matinee idol has fallen on hard times. What kind of numbers am I going to get?’” Buteau noted Finchem “wouldn’t put a dollar figure on how much Woods’s play may enter into negotiations.” He said that because the Tour “relies on a wide variety of revenue streams, it doesn’t ‘depend on’ ratings” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 1/27). GOLFWEEK’s Forecaddie reports the Tour has already taken care of “most of the hard work -- not with potential network partners, but with title sponsors.” Keeping current partners and getting new ones “guarantee ad revenue for the Tour’s TV partners.” Pilson Communications President Neal Pilson said, “While ratings are important, the sponsor’s commitment is at the foundation of the golf TV economy. The major sponsors buy TV, and TV has always appreciated it.” Forecaddie notes tournament title sponsorships “fetch upward of $8 million, and nearly half goes to TV ads.” While sponsorship prices are “likely close to their ceiling, it’s a safe bet that the days of soaring rights fees are over.” Pilson: “I don’t see the Tour holding a fire sale … but the networks will resist any significant increases, too” (GOLFWEEK, 1/28 issue).

PLAYING PARTNERS: USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes Finchem "is right to arrange more TV-friendly player pairings" during early rounds of tournaments, such as the Woods-Rocco Mediate-Anthony Kim threesome playing the first two rounds of the week's Farmers Insurance Open. Players like Woods and Phil Mickelson "can nearly double TV numbers when they're on the leaderboard," and the Tour is "smart to pair its biggest stars while also giving more air time to young bloods" like Kim and Fowler. McCarthy: "Did I mention the PGA Tour is due to begin negotiations this year for new TV contracts? The Tour wants to be armed with better TV numbers when it sits down to talk money" with CBS and NBC. But USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes if golf "couldn't develop consistently higher ratings as Tiger Woods brought in so many new viewers over a decade, it's not going to help itself much with tweaks" (USA TODAY, 1/28).

LORD OF THE LINKS: GOLFWEEK this week has a special feature on golf and television. The magazine’s Martin Kaufmann profiles Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, who has become “perhaps golf’s best broadcast analyst.” Kaufmann: “He has strong opinions, supports them with enough stats to make a Roto-geek’s head spin, states his case with a quick, coherent delivery, would prefer to hit a shank rather than mouth a cliché, and doesn’t much care if someone takes exception to what he says.” Unlike many other “athletes who parachute into television,” Chamblee “doesn’t mind criticizing former competitors.” He begins preparing for tournaments several days beforehand, as he will “research the history of the event, analyze the course, pore over statistical trends, pick 10-15 favorites, then track each shot they hit.” He said, “When the (camera) light goes on, if I have fun, that’s a good show for me. Nobody’s making me do this. I’m doing it because I like it” (GOLFWEEK, 1/28 issue).

THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN: GOLFWEEK held an online poll asking several questions related to golf broadcasts. Readers were asked to name their three favorite on-course or tower reporters, and CBS’ David Feherty was named by 33.3% of the 2,887 respondents. CBS’ Gary McCord (13.5%) and NBC’s Roger Maltbie (10.0%) ranked second and third, respectively. NBC’s Johnny Miller was named the announcer “most likely to make you think, ‘Hmmm, that’s interesting’” by 33.5% of 1,562 respondents, while he also was named the analyst “most likely to make you throw the remote at the TV” by 45.3% on 1,389 ballots (GOLFWEEK, 1/28 issue).
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