SBD/June 26, 2012/Media

PGA Tour Taking Over Its Digital Rights From Turner Starting In January

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PGA Tour will beef up sales staff once it takes digital rights in-house in January
The PGA Tour will take control of its digital rights beginning in January after not extending its current deal with Turner Sports. Turner has been working with the Tour on its digital business, including sales, marketing and operations, since '06, but the Tour has been running the editorial side all along. Similar to NASCAR's move to regain control of its digital rights earlier this year, the Tour will oversee its entire package of rights by bringing them in-house after the end of the year. During an evaluation process that lasted nine months, the Tour considered extending with Turner and also had deep conversations about partnering with one of its broadcast partners, CBS or NBC, before deciding to take over all control. Industry sources branded the PGA Tour-Turner Sports split as amicable, certainly more so than last year's divorce between Turner Sports and Sports Illustrated over the latter's digital business. But even as Turner held interest in retaining the Tour rights, there was not agreement on a financial model for a potential term beyond this year.

OMNIGON ON BOARD:
For the Tour, the move was anticipated after it last year signed a series of new nine-year TV deals with CBS and NBC that provide the networks additional rights to activate their live broadcast rights on digital platforms. PGA Tour Senior VP/Entertainment & New Media Paul Johnson said Omnigon has been retained as the vendor to provide the technical resources for PGATour.com and other digital needs. Johnson: “The ability to have 100 percent control and flexibility in a marketplace that changes really fast was very important to us. Turner has been a great partner and the business has been very strong. We’re truly in a leadership position in golf for online, mobile and social. Taking the rights in-house is the right structure for the future.” Johnson said PGATour.com will continue under the same name and that hires will be made to beef up the sales staff for the Tour’s digital division. Johnson added, “The biggest change is that after this year Turner will not be representing us in the advertising market. We will now be representing our properties ourselves. We will sell our own ad inventory. We already were selling close to 50 percent of it and now we’ll be selling 100 percent. We’ll be ramping up our sales capacity, and dealing directly with clients and agencies.” Lee Bushkell, PGATour.com VP & GM, will oversee the sales side of the digital

WHAT IT MEANS FOR TURNER: Turner Sports Senior VP & GM Matt Hong said, “This was a collaborative decision. We're not getting out of golf, and we will continue to move forward looking to leverage our existing portfolio across all platforms." Turner Sports will continue to work with the PGA of America for PGA.com, and also exclusively sells the golf section of Yahoo Sports. PGA Tour VP/Digital Media & Business Development Luis Goicouria will handle the operations. Johnson said Goicouria came over from MTV nine months ago and has been instrumental in the process.
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