SBJ/June 9 - 15, 2003/This Weeks Issue

Experts: Augusta National gives up as much as $15M

Golf and television insiders say Augusta National Golf Club leaves as much as $15 million on the table each time it forgoes commercials in the Masters telecast, as it will do in 2004 for the second straight year.

The number is significant, but it's dwarfed by what the club could fetch if it ever put the tournament up for formal bid, rather than maintain its open-ended series of one-year deals with CBS for the third and fourth rounds and its current relationship with the USA Network for the first two.

"Augusta does it this way to keep control. They could sell the rights for between $30 million and $50 million [annually]," said one veteran golf marketer with strong network ties. Why is lost revenue not a problem for Augusta? "Hell, each member could buy the rights to the tournament himself," the marketer said.

The club said last week that it would not have sponsors for next year's event. The club relieved Coca-Cola, Citigroup and IBM of their sponsor obligations for this year's telecast, saying it did not want them involved in the controversy with the National Council of Women's Organizations. CBS and Augusta National do not discuss terms of their relationship.

Staff writer Langdon Brockinton contributed to this story.

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