SBD/September 25, 2013/Media

Dearth Of Golf Properties On Fox Sports Seen As Key In USGA TV Rights Deal

USGA events will help to fill gaps on Fox left by the loss of EPL rights
Fox Sports, in negotiating a deal with the USGA to carry the U.S. Open starting in '15, "apparently had the inside track, partly because it was a novice in golf," according to an in-depth examination of the deal by Ron Sirak of GOLF DIGEST. The competition was "ostensibly" between NBC/Golf Channel and ESPN, but USGA negotiators found Fox to be "a platform unlike any other." The USGA in Fox "could have a loud voice in entertainment, news and sports with only one golf property to ballyhoo." The loss of EPL soccer "created a content issue" for Fox, and the USGA "has 16 championships that can help fill that void." The USGA in May "got a sense of what its product might be worth when ESPN took the U.S. Open tennis tournament from CBS" beginning in '15 in an 11-year, $825M deal. The USGA "believed that U.S. Open golf was worth at least as much as U.S. Open tennis." The atmosphere of this "bidding war provided rich air for the USGA to breathe, and it was determined to take advantage." The idea with the Fox deal was "to expose the USGA product to the casual golf fan and even the general sports fan" on FS1. While USGA Managing Dir of Communications Joe Goode said that there was "unanimity" among the USGA Exec Committee, consultants and the negotiating team on the deal, there is "clearly a split between the old and new USGA." Even many supportive of the move"have issues with how ESPN and NBC were treated after years of loyalty." Sirak asks, "Will bringing fresh eyes into the game help jazz up broadcasting?" Fox "has not been shy about experimenting." One thing Fox has is "the time to make mistakes," while the USGA has "the money to endure mistakes." What is clear is that the USGA will have Fox "all to itself for the time being as a golf property." The PGA Tour is signed with NBC, CBS and Golf Channel through '21, while CBS has the PGA Championship through '19 and ESPN has the British Open through '17 (GOLF DIGEST, 11'/13 issue).

BY THE NUMBERS: GOLFWEEK's Martin Kaufmann writes NBC's broadcasters are "good business partners for FedEx and the PGA Tour." Dan Hicks "breathlessly opened" the net's Tour Championship broadcast on Sunday by saying, "It is one of the most exciting, riveting and pressure-packed days in all of sport with all the money that's on the line." It was left to analyst Steve Sands to "explain the various [FedExCup] scenarios." NBC this year "upgraded Sands from the whiteboard to a nifty touch-screen display, and he again handled it like the smartest student in the class." But "if you need an announcer to explain who might win, you have less of a sporting contest than a math problem." That is a "big hurdle for the broadcaster to overcome" (GOLFWEEK, 9/27 issue).
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