SBJ/20081013/This Week's News

CBS, Golf Channel share weekend coverage

Golf Channel will get an influx of additional PGA Tour programming as it will telecast early-hour weekend coverage of 12 Tour events that air on CBS next season thanks to a multifaceted arrangement between the networks. As part of the deal, Golf Channel parent Comcast will launch CBS College Sports in an extra 2 million homes, bringing the cable channel’s total to 25 million.

Golf Channel had been negotiating for some weekend coverage when it signed its 15-year exclusive deal to carry the early Thursday and Friday rounds of PGA Tour events. CBS and NBC officials originally were cool to the idea, not wanting to dilute their weekend coverage, golf sources said.

But Comcast finally convinced CBS to share the weekend coverage when it offered added carriage for CBS College. The additional homes for the college network mainly come in markets where Comcast already has launched the channel. The agreement will see CBS College move to a better distributed tier in some of these markets. The exact tier and penetration varies by market.

Terms of the deal, which starts next season, have Golf Channel airing a block of live weekend coverage for up to 12 events that air later in the day on CBS.

Golf Channel’s 2 1/2-hour windows start at 12:30 p.m. and will feature live action, interviews and analysis. Golf Channel had requested to staff the telecasts with CBS talent Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo. Faldo already works for both networks, but it’s unclear whether either announcer will be available for Golf Channel’s coverage.

The shared events are likely to
feature Tiger Woods.

The 2009 television schedule has not been released, but CBS, which aired 22 PGA Tour events this year, usually comes on the air for three hours beginning at 3 p.m. The 12 tournaments have not been selected, but will likely include the six CBS events in which Tiger Woods has played in the past and the first of the four FedEx Cup playoffs.

Any additional compensation between Golf Channel and the PGA Tour could not be determined, but a tour executive said Golf Channel was paying incremental production fees to CBS. Title sponsorships of most PGA Tour events include about $3 million in cable and network advertising, and those packages will not increase as a result of the new arrangement.

PGA Tour programming is the most popular content among advertisers on Golf Channel, said network executives. The network’s advertising inventory is approximately 90 percent sold, while PGA Tour content on the network is sold out.

The early-afternoon time windows on weekends have consisted of infomercials, original programming and coverage of events on the Champions, Nationwide and LPGA tours. Golf Channel expects the new programming will better appeal to endemic and non-endemic advertisers buying in the upfront and scatter markets.

“You can obviously see how having the PGA Tour would be a tremendous strengthening of that time period,” said Page Thompson, president of Golf Channel.

Golf Channel can also replay all weekend coverage in prime time and package a highlight show that would air on Monday nights.

Golf Channel is completing year two of its PGA Tour deal, under which it airs live first- and second-round coverage on Thursday and Friday. The network also airs four-round coverage of 14 less prominent events throughout the year.

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