SBJ/January 14-20, 2013/Media

PGA Tour gets stake in The Whistle

Startup youth sports programmer The Whistle has signed a deal in which the PGA Tour will take a minority equity interest in the emerging company.

The PGA Tour also will participate in a content and distribution deal with The Whistle, supplying archival content as well as assisting in the development of new programming. Content will be distributed across both The Whistle’s various platforms and PGA Tour-owned outlets.

The Whistle’s golf content will include a focus on the off-course lives of top players.
The Whistle holds similar pacts with the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Soccer, IndyCar Entertainment and the Harlem Globetrotters, among others. But the PGA Tour’s involvement goes further, as it will join an investor group that includes the NFL, former MLB President Bob DuPuy, Clear Channel Communications Chief Executive Bob Pittman, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We have found a real champion in the tour in what we’re doing,” said Jeff Urban, The Whistle co-founder and chief marketing officer. “This really allows us to align in a different, deeper way than just being a content producer and distributor. This is now two pretty formidable leagues stepping up and saying they want a piece of the company.”

For the PGA Tour, The Whistle marks another step in its transition toward a younger player and fan base. Golf traditionally has drawn one of the older fan followings among major U.S. sports leagues, but an emerging talent base of star players younger than 25 — including Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and John Huh — has given the sport a jolt of youthful energy, something that will be prominently featured in golf-related content on The Whistle.

Golf programming on The Whistle will focus heavily on the off-course lives of top players in addition to tournament-related features. The Whistle and the tour will work on jointly promoting the new material across their platforms.
“This is such a good alignment of objectives for us,” said Paul Johnson, PGA Tour senior vice president of strategic development, digital media and entertainment. “We all know the value of reaching the youth audience. We’ve been tracking The Whistle for some time, and were early believers in what they’re doing and their business plan, and we now see big opportunity going forward together.”

The Whistle has eschewed a traditional TV-focused model in favor of a more diverse approach that includes online, mobile and social media, content distributed through video game consoles and occasional TV airings on the NBC Sports Network.

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