SBD/September 2, 2011/Media

Contract Length, Digital Innovation Key To PGA Tour's New TV Deals

Finchem (r) notes Tour's annual revenue from TV deals will increase
The key elements of the PGA Tour's new nine-year TV agreements with CBS and NBC "were the length of the deal and the flexibility to expand digital products," according to Ron Sirak of GOLFDIGEST.com. The Tour's agreements with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel all expire after the '21 season, and the nature of the new deals give the Tour and its TV partners the "opportunity to explore new forms of media together." Now that NBC and Golf Channel are "both owned by Comcast, there will be increased cross-programming and simultaneous programming involving those two operations." The new agreements include a "wide range of simulcast coverage of live tournament action on various PGA Tour digital platforms starting with PGATour.com, as well as CBSports.com, NBCSports.com and GolfChannel.com." Sirak noted "some of these innovations will be implemented in 2012 and all will be implemented by 2013." Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed, but PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem "did say that the yearly revenue the tour receives will increase." CBS and NBC will retain "pretty much the same programming schedule they had under the current deal -- about 20 events for CBS and 10 for NBC -- and the deal ensures that the Players, the tour's flagship event, will remain in May at TPC Sawgrass" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 9/1). Finchem said Thursday, "It will generate more value to the broadcast carrier, it will generate more value to our sponsors because there are a variety of uses that tie into sponsorship, and it certainly will result in a much more robust way of programming and communication that's available to our fan base" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/1). CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said, "I don’t like the expression ‘win-win-win,’ but I think in this case, for the tour and for CBS and for NBC I think it really is. And I think it’s going to prove to be probably an even better deal nine years from now than we think it is today" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/2). NBC Sports Chair Mark Lazarus said, "I think I can say with some certainty that it’ll be profitable in each of the nine years." McManus: "I would agree with that" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/2).

TIGER WATCHING: McManus said that "nobody got bogged down fretting" over Tiger Woods, who hasn't won a PGA Tour event since '09. McManus: "Our business model does not anticipate any golfer being as dominant as Tiger once was. If that happened, it would just be an upside" (USA TODAY, 9/2). On Long Island, Mark Herrmann writes the PGA Tour's move to secure TV rights through '21 "refutes the idea television networks are interested in only one golfer and that they would be wary until Tiger Woods returns to form" (NEWSDAY, 9/2). The AP's Doug Ferguson noted the networks are "relying on the next generation of stars, even if none of them can come close to Woods' appeal." McManus: "Tim went into this negotiation with his team with a set of goals, as did we, and our goal quite simply was to renew the PGA Tour to keep our best tournaments, to keep the schedule intact, and come out with a deal that made sense for both us and our partners at the PGA Tour. And I'm pleased to say that I think we did that. And I could not be happier" (AP, 9/1). Finchem said, "The fans clearly have taken increasingly to the nature of our competition over the last couple years and in doing so reinstilled confidence in our sport that might have been waning when our No. 1 player was not that active. There is such a tremendous buzz and focus on this juxtaposition of Tiger and Phil (Mickelson) … against this huge increase in young players who are coming forward and able to win tournaments at every level" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/2).

LANDING ON THE GREEN: Finchem said the deal is the “continuation of a great partnership.” Finchem: “CBS, NBC and Golf Channel have worked together to be our partners for the last number of years and it has worked really well, both from a production standpoint and from a marketplace standpoint. It has created more value for our sponsors, better viewing for our fans and to be able to extend all that for 10 years, it is a terrific day for the PGA Tour.” Finchem added, “Our partners will continue to make money. It will be profitable. We will be able to grow our financial benefits to our players to some extent over five or 10 years. We will be able to take advantage of the new digital telecommunications aspects to reach people differently and excite fans. … For us, our television partners are stakeholders in the sport, that’s why they’re there, and we have been with our partners for a long time. They continue to invest more and more, in making the production quality better and promoting it more, and that is what you are going to see these next five to 10 years” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 9/1).

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE: In Jacksonville, Garry Smits noted Finchem "has had his share of critics," but "few can doubt one thing: When it comes time to deliver on TV contracts, he calmly walks up to buried lies and blasts them out to the edge of the cup." Finchem landed the new deals in a "horrible economic climate and with Tiger Woods in decline over the last two years." The commissioner "apparently has convinced TV executives that the young, internationally diverse stars emerging such as Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Jason Day and Gary Woodland are enough to carry the Tour for the balance of this decade" and into the next. Finchem also "has stubbornly proved a point to the many critics of the FedEx Cup: The season-long points race that has been the backbone of the Tour’s competitive structure since 2007, is here to stay." The players and "obviously the TV networks have warmed to it much faster than the armchair critics in the media." Smits noted Finchem's contract is set to expire in '12, and if he "decides to retire, he’s left the Tour’s TV situation in marvelous shape" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 9/1).

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