SBJ/September 26-October 2, 2011/Opinion

PGA Tour deals an ace

One recent story that did not receive enough examination was the PGA Tour’s nine-year media rights renewals maintaining its partnerships with CBS and NBC. It came as a surprise because few saw the deals being completed as early as they were. The tour’s rights weren’t up until the end of 2012, and the talks could have stretched well into next year. And with only two broadcasters bidding on the packages, it appeared the tour had little leverage.

So it shocked many when the extensions were announced on the Thursday before Labor Day. Not ideal PR timing, but that shouldn’t obscure the fact that the PGA Tour nailed one here. Commissioner Tim Finchem is adroit at working behind the scenes, using all he learned from working in Washington for President Carter to reach diplomatic consensus in deal making. The fact that he was able to secure these extensions so that all the tour’s TV deals, along with Golf Channel, expire together in 2021 is a testament to his negotiating skill — and golf’s value to its network partners.

While specific numbers were not revealed, the deals represent a slight increase in the tour’s rights fees. Sports rights fees have been increasing across the board, but any increase for the PGA Tour is a good sign given that the global economic market is rattled, golf’s endemic advertising base is unsettled, tour ratings are leveling off, and there are no signs Tiger Woods will ever be the player or attraction he once was. Despite those significant factors, Finchem and company secured financial footing that will benefit the tour and professional golf.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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