SBJ/May 30 - June 6, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

PGA Tour Entertainment stepping up its game

The PGA Tour is diving deeper into the production business as a way of promoting its up-and-coming players and bringing more exposure to the tour.

Personalizing golfers not named Tiger Woods has been a core challenge for the tour, which, as a players organization, has been hesitant to endorse one player over another. But with new leadership and a new focus on delivering PGA Tour content to nontraditional media outlets, the tour has refreshed the objectives for its production arm, PGA Tour Entertainment.

Highlighting the personalities of its players and taking that content to channels that don’t typically carry golf is chief among those new priorities.

“There’s real value in being able to show a different side of Bubba Watson, for example,” said Paul Johnson, the tour’s senior vice president in charge of entertainment and new media, who moved into the new role last August. “There’s a big-picture impact that we need to be thinking about, and that’s how entertainment can deliver more value to the tour.”

The tour took a bold step in that direction with its branding campaign this year called “Establishment vs. New Breed,” which pits young stars like Watson and Rickie Fowler against Woods and Vijay Singh in 30-second spots. PGA Tour Entertainment will follow up in July with a one-hour special along that same theme that will air on CBS. That’s an example of how Johnson wants the entertainment
Among the division’s latest projects: a documentary on the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley (top) that aired on CBS and a video for Darius Rucker’s “Together, Anything’s Possible.”
division’s projects to support the tour’s messaging, while also making a buck or two.

The CBS special will mark the second one-hour special produced by PGA Tour Entertainment this year for the network. The first was a documentary on the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley that aired May 22.

These specials, along with a music video that PGA Tour Entertainment produced for Darius Rucker’s “Together, Anything’s Possible,” show how the tour is stretching its production legs. That’s a byproduct of Johnson’s leadership and an accompanying set of new priorities. Creating more and better programming tops the to-do list for the 100-person division that has been best-known for producing the 25-year-old series “Inside the PGA Tour” and mostly one-off projects.

“If we can get the shows out there about these young players and drive a better familiarity with these players, that can create a rooting interest,” Johnson said. “Then you have more people likely to tune in. … The Olympics have done tons of that with their athlete profiles, and it drives interest in the competition.”

PGA Tour Entertainment’s other priorities include increasing the amount of work it does for official marketing partners and title sponsors, and more internal videos to support the sales, marketing and public relations departments. The group has shot some commercials and “return-on-investment” videos for tour partners, but Johnson believes that amount can be doubled.

The division also is in the process of digitizing thousands of hours of archived footage, another area that’s been underutilized, Johnson said. He’s fond of the NCAA Vault and ACC Vault, websites created by Denver-based Thought Equity Motion to make those NCAA and ACC archives an advertising platform that generates revenue and extends their brands.

“When you have archives that are digitally mastered and you put that in the hands of the consumer, that’s a powerful tool to grow the game,” said Kevin Schaff, CEO of Thought Equity. “Broadcast partners don’t have the rights or the motivation to add value [to the archives]. Leagues are doing a much better job of capturing these opportunities.”

About PGA Tour Entertainment:

Based at PGA Tour headquarters at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and in the World Golf Village at St. Augustine, Fla.

100 employees, led by SVP Paul Johnson

Produces 800 hours of live programming for TV and PGATour.com

Rebranded from PGA Tour Productions in 2010

Produces international feed that goes to more than 200 countries for each PGA Tour event.

Creating new content is the first step. Finding networks hungering for golf programming is just as important. While Golf Channel has been PGA Tour Entertainment’s No. 1 customer and will continue to be an important ally, scores of other channels have programming needs, whether it’s Versus, a Fox RSN, the Big Ten Network or perhaps even ESPN’s new Longhorn Sports Network.

The PGA Tour is interviewing six candidates — among them CAA, IMG, Intersport and Winnercomm — to be a distribution partner for the entertainment unit.

“We don’t have the contacts with every single network,” Johnson said. “We don’t know exactly what they’re looking for. We don’t have 30 guys out there selling shows all the time. So there’s a business element where a partner can help.”

Moving deeper into production and distribution of its own content is a process NASCAR Media Group began about five years ago. It built a $43 million facility next to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, which opened in 2010, and its production credits now include several shows on Speed and movies on Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty.

“The biggest challenge is making sure you have a clear strategic direction and that you focus your resources against those objectives, as opposed to chasing every opportunity that comes along just to make money,” said Jay Abraham, COO of NASCAR Media Group. “We’re here to support the industry, and we’ve also got to fund the infrastructure. Those financial and strategic objectives can be in conflict sometimes.”

After coming up through the digital ranks and running new media for the tour, Johnson added the entertainment division to his responsibilities last August, when the former head of the division, Gil Kerr, left the tour. Johnson now leads a consolidated entertainment and new media unit.

Johnson’s first step was to reassess PGA Tour Entertainment, which he did internally. Externally, he hired Chicago-based Silver Chalice to analyze the market and the competitive environment.

Johnson ultimately saw a need to ramp up the group’s production and distribution efforts to expose the tour in new ways.

“As the league, you can have an authenticity that no one else has,” said Silver Chalice COO Jason Coyle. “As long as you’re publishing credible content, that should be a place for fans to go for the most authoritative content of all. It used to be that the lines between the team and the broadcaster were very clear. Now you have leagues asking themselves, ‘Why can’t we be content companies?’”
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