SBJ/May 2-8, 2011/Media

Golf Channel deal gives Asian Tour exposure in U.S.

The Asian Tour, which has been the proving ground for golfers such as K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang before they became stars in the U.S., is broadening its reach with a new TV agreement with Golf Channel.

The deal was struck by Asian Tour Media, a new joint venture created by the tour and IMG Media’s Asia-Pacific division. Asian Tour Media will be the entity that represents and manages the tour’s TV distribution, which now is in 420 million households across 130 countries. That coverage area includes Fox in Australia, Sky Sports in the United Kingdom, ESPN in India and other networks that carry the tour through China, the Middle East, Korea and Vietnam.

The new arrangement with Golf Channel will put the Asian Tour in North America, Latin America and Japan. This will mark the Asian Tour’s first regular TV exposure in North America. Financial terms were not available, but Golf Channel pays a fee for the finished programs and sells the advertising around it.

“The Asian Tour truly is moving into a position where it’s receiving exposure worldwide,” said Robbie Henchman, IMG’s senior vice president and managing director for golf, Asia-Pacific. “That’s an important move for the tour and it’s important for the sponsors as well.”

Golf Channel in North America will air a one-hour package of highlights each week during the Asian Tour season, which includes 21 tournaments and runs from February through November. The shows come pre-packaged from IMG’s production team.

“Golf Channel is the pinnacle for golf exposure,” Henchman said. “To get on Golf Channel says that they’re recognizing the quality of the product in the Asian Tour.”

Through the last decade, IMG has worked with the tour to promote tournaments, but in the last two years IMG has worked on the TV distribution. The new 12-year deal between IMG and the tour to create Asian Tour Media encompasses all aspects of the TV broadcast, from production and talent to distribution. The media team is led by Henchman, the chairman of the Asian Tour Media board, and Michael Mellor, senior vice president of IMG Media, Asia-Pacific, a board director.

It’s similar to IMG’s arrangement with the European Tour, which formed European Tour Productions in the early 1990s and now produces more than 700 hours of programming each year. IMG says it hopes Asian Tour Media will eventually mimic the success of European Tour Productions.

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