SBD/March 17, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

PGA Tour, LPGA Resume Talk Of Forming Cooperative Partnership

LPGA partnership could offer PGA Tour "enormous growth potential"
Talk of a "cooperative arrangement" between the PGA Tour and LPGA "has resumed -- and this time, the idea is not likely to face the same resistance" it did when it was first discussed a decade ago, according to sources cited by Ron Sirak of GOLF DIGEST. While the "joint-effort concept is most tellingly being bounced around at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., it is also gaining traction with television executives who are looking for innovative ways to package golf on the small screen key, as well as some market-minded LPGA players who fear the current business model for their tour is unsustainable." Sirak noted the LPGA "could benefit from both the big pockets of the PGA Tour and from the ways in which it could structure added-value title sponsorship deals." Some PGA Tour sponsors "could take on LPGA events for a little more money, and the fact the PGA Tour would use its various promotional platforms to market the LPGA would help get the message out about how much talent there is in women's golf." Also, both tours have "long-term TV contracts with Golf Channel," and right now "that relationship hurts the LPGA." Because it is "down the pecking order behind not just the PGA Tour but the Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour as well, at least 35 LPGA rounds will be shown on delayed tape this year." Also, sources indicated that under a TV contract negotiated by former Commissioner Carolyn Bivens, the LPGA "picks up 100 percent of the cost of the Golf Channel production -- about $540,000 a week." Half of that total is "passed onto the tournaments, meaning the sponsor starts out down $270,000 for what, in many cases, is a delayed-tape broadcast." For the PGA Tour, partnering with the LPGA offers it a product with "enormous growth potential." In addition, the men's tour could gain "control of the scheduling of a tour that is, albeit a minor, competition for fans." Also, it is "another bargaining chip in the TV negotiations with CBS and NBC for the contracts that expire" after next season (, 3/15).

HELPING EACH OTHER OUT: Former LPGA member Annika Sorenstam said of the potential partnership between the tours, “It's something that's been swirling around for really the last 10 years. Just thinking, 'Hey, how can the LPGA get to the next level? What does the Tour need to grow and to get bigger purses, et cetera?' I don't think it's anything new." Sorenstam added, "I wouldn't be totally against it. I think that we can really help each other in a lot of ways, especially now with the economy." She said she "would love see some tournaments" that feature men's and women's fields. Sorenstam: “Not against each other, but kind of like tennis where they have the same venue. You can make it a smaller field and I think there's so much you can do to just kind of change it up a little bit" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 3/17).
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