USGA, Fox Unveil 12-Year Deal For U.S. Open As Some Question Timing Of Announcement
The USGA and Fox Sports yesterday announced a 12-year deal that will see Fox and FS1 air the U.S. Open, U.S. Women's Open and U.S. Senior Open Championship, as well as the USGA's national amateur championship and other live content, beginning in '15. The deal runs through '26 and will see the USGA and Fox deliver a total of 146 hours of golf, including a minimum of 70 cumulative hours of live-event coverage of the three Opens. Financial terms were not disclosed (USGA). The AP's Doug Ferguson cited a source as saying that the Fox bid was "in the neighborhood of $100 million a year, more than double the previous contracts" with NBC and ESPN. NBC had broadcast the event since '95. USGA Managing Dir of Communications Joe Goode in an e-mail wrote that signing with Fox "was not a reflection on NBC or 'simply the financials.'" Goode wrote, "The decision is consistent with our strategy for delivering golf in new and innovative ways, which can be achieved with a partner that has a completely fresh perspective on the game." NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller said, "I feel bad for the USGA in a way that money was more important than basically a good golf crew." He said that it was "unlikely he would go to Fox even if offered a chance," and added that his contract with NBC runs through '15. Miller: "You can’t just fall out of a tree and do the U.S. Open. I guess the money was more important than the performance. No way they can step in and do the job we were doing" (AP, 8/7). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir cites sources as saying that the deal is "at least double" NBC and ESPN's combined $37M rights fee. Fox now must "build a golf crew from scratch, which might not be easy." The net could "find it difficult to lure" Miller and other NBC golf commentators "until it gets more than one tour event" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/8).
BROADCASTING BATTLES: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman notes the deal is a "blow to NBCUniversal's NBC Sports, and its Golf Channel, which has tried to brand itself as the top destination for golf fans." USGA President Glen Nager indicated that in addition to the increase in rights fees over the roughly $40M the organization has been collecting, the USGA "decided to go with Fox because of the network's record of reaching a younger demographic and coming up with new ways to televise sports." He said, "You look at what Fox has done when [they] went into football and baseball. They have a record of innovation" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/8). ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi wrote, "The deal offers further proof that Fox is going to do everything it can to bolster its already deep sports roster." It also is a "wakeup call of sorts for NBC Sports and the Golf Channel" (ADWEEK.com, 8/7).
USGA CHIDED FOR TIMING : GOLFCHANNEL.com's John Hawkins wrote the USGA "violated a very sacred tenet" in announcing this news the day before the start of the PGA Championship. Hawkins: "You don’t release such information on the eve of someone else’s major championship." This is "just lousy manners, a transparent and selfish act directed at a rival organization, the PGA of America, ostensibly in retribution for the anchored-putter skirmish that arose between the governing bodies late last year." Golfer Brandt Snedeker tweeted, "Don’t know the relationship between @USGA and @ThePGAofAmerica but seems petty to announce new TV deal today USGA… Couldn’t wait??" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 8/7). Golf blogger Geoff Shackelford wrote the timing of the announcement was a "tacky decision" by the USGA. The agreement was announced in an "utterly low class, ungentlemanly fashion on the eve of the PGA Championship which happens to be run by the organization that did not support us on the anchoring ban. Coincidence?" Shackelford wrote this is a "dark day" for the USGA and "for the game" in general (GEOFFSHACKELFORD.com, 8/7). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits wrote, "It was a tacky move by the USGA, which professes to be the bastion of all things honorable about golf and its rules" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 8/7). Golf Channel's Rich Lerner said the move was a "monumental misstep of bad timing and poor judgment." Lerner: "The prevailing sentiment by the assembled golfing world here in Rochester is one of disbelief because golf's major ruling bodies have always respected each other’s big events, and adhered to an unwritten agreement to not overshadow one another" ("Live from the PGA Championship," Golf Channel, 8/7).