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Volume 25 No. 66
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PGA Championship Leaving TNT For ESPN In '20, Re-Ups With CBS

CBS and ESPN cited the tourney's move to May as one of the main drawing cards to doing the deal
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The PGA Championship will leave TNT after next year’s event, ending a 29-year relationship with Turner Sports, which has carried the golf major on TBS and TNT since ‘91. PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh said he called Turner President David Levy over the weekend to tell him that ESPN would pick up the tournament’s cable rights that had been held by Turner as part of a new deal to be announced this afternoon. The tournament’s other long-time media partner, CBS, was able to renew its deal to carry afternoon coverage on the weekend. The 11-year agreement runs through ’30. Financial terms were not disclosed, though execs described the rights fee increase as “healthy.” The deal sets CBS and ESPN as partners for the first two major tournaments on golf’s calendar -- the PGA is moving to May from August next year, while CBS and ESPN have partnered on The Masters since '08. CBS will produce the PGA, even when it is on ESPN. “We like the idea of having the same team do the first two majors of the year,” Waugh said. Both CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus and ESPN Exec VP/Programming & Scheduling Burke Magnus cited the move to May as one of the main drawing cards to doing a deal for the PGA. McManus: “Having the first two golf majors on CBS made it really attractive for us.” Magnus agreed, saying, "That was one of the lead factors that got us excited. ... It really caught our attention as an opportunity.”

TWO YEARS OF TALKS: The deal is the culmination of two years of talks that involved many traditional media companies, including NBC Sports Group, which was believed to gain an edge over the summer when it hired Pete Bevacqua as President. Bevacqua had spent six years as PGA of America CEO until moving to NBC in September. He handled the early negotiations for the PGA of America, and recused himself from the negotiating table when he started working with NBC. The agreement is the first deal under Waugh, who took over for Bevacqua last month. PGA of America Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Price was involved in the talks, as was Evolution Media Capital partner and Head of Sports Media Alan Gold, who the PGA of America retained to help with the deal. McManus and CBS Sports President David Berson led negotiations for CBS Sports. Magnus was the point man for ESPN.

FIRST DEAL FOR NEW CBS BOSS: The deal is a significant one for CBS, marking its first big sports rights deal since Joe Ianniello replaced Les Moonves as the head of CBS last month. McManus said that Ianniello never wavered from renewing this deal. “This was the first deal done with new management here at CBS,” McManus said. “Joe was very supportive of the deal from the beginning. The overall strategy for CBS has not changed. It is still centered on the value of sports.” Ianniello said, “Premium content such as the PGA represents the past, present and future of CBS. There is nothing like live sports programming to attract a mass audience and drive our business.” In negotiating to renew its deal, CBS execs emphasized their relationship with the PGA of America -- it also has carried the PGA since ’91. CBS will get expanded highlight and digital rights that it will use on CBSSports.com, CBS All Access and its mobile apps, while CBS Sports Network will produce shows on site. “The overall relationship we had with the PGA of America was critical to getting this deal done,” McManus said. “It quickly became clear that our partnership was important to the PGA of America.” Waugh added, “We’re about relationships and loyalty. Incumbents will always have the pole position with us.”

MORE CONTENT FOR ESPN+: ESPN’s strategy has been to invest more heavily in championship events like the PGA, which was last carried on the net in ’90. “If they hand out a trophy at the end of it, we’re interest in carrying it,” Magnus said. But ESPN also is looking for content to convince people to subscribe to its ESPN+ streaming service. “We’re building a new business in ESPN+. It was ideal for us to have a golf major available for acquisition.” Starting with the ’20 event at Harding Park in S.F., CBS and ESPN will have wall-to-wall coverage (more than 175 hours) during the tournament. CBS will carry weekend afternoon coverage, while ESPN and ESPN+ will carry the Thursday and Friday rounds exclusively. It also will carry weekend rounds before CBS goes on air. Interestingly, while CBS is on air on the weekend, ESPN+ will have live coverage from featured holes and featured groups. ESPN will have in-progress highlight rights and post-round highlight rights for ESPN+, ESPN.com and the ESPN App. ESPN+ also will carry practice rounds before the tournament, press conferences and driving range interviews. ESPN will produce “SportsCenter” from the event. Other aspects of the deal: ESPN will carry the PGA Jr. League Championship starting in Oct. ’20. “That could become a different version of the Little League World Series,” Waugh said. Plus, the PGA of America retains the rights to PGA.com.

TURNER SAYS GOODBYE: Turner released a statement this morning acknowledging that its 29-year association with the PGA Championship is coming to an end. Turner said, “We’ve had a successful partnership with the PGA of America for many years, including continuous innovations throughout our portfolio that have greatly enhanced the experience for golf fans. We wish them all the best in their future pursuits.”