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Volume 21 No. 1
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LPGA adds TV deal, launches websites in Asia

The LPGA aggressively is going after larger audiences in Asia with the launch of new websites in Korea and China and a new TV deal in Japan.

“We’re looking to grow every place that makes sense,” said Brian Carroll, the LPGA’s vice president of television and emerging media. “These will be key elements in our ability to expand what’s already a global tour.”

New sites in Korea (at right) and China will contain much of the content from the U.S. site.
On the TV front, the LPGA expects its viewership numbers in Japan to grow with two new outlets for its tournaments.

Wowow, a premium network in Japan, will carry about half of the LPGA’s tournaments on its pay sports and entertainment channel. Most of the events on Wowow will be the LPGA’s international tournaments.

Like most traditional arrangements, the network will pay a rights fee and the LPGA will provide the telecast. The five-year deal was negotiated by IMG Media and will put those tournaments in Wowow’s nearly 20 million households. The network, which also carries the NBA, professional tennis and soccer, will present LPGA highlights packages and other shoulder programming during the season.

The rest of the tournaments, mostly U.S. events, will be broadcast by Japan’s Golf Network, which has formed a broadcasting partnership with Golf Channel Japan. Golf Channel carried those LPGA events in the past, but under the new arrangement, the rest of the LPGA package will be televised on Golf Network, which reaches 7 million households in Japan, compared with 2.5 million on the former Golf Channel Japan.

“That puts us in much better shape in Japan from a TV standpoint,” said Carroll, who joined the LPGA from the PGA Tour a year ago.

The new websites in Korea and China will be branded as LPGA properties and will feature much of the same content as the LPGA’s official site in the United States, except it will be translated and published in the native languages of those countries. Each of the sites also will have the resources to create its own unique content, most likely featuring players from that country.

In Korea, the LPGA has partnered with J Golf, the network that also has the tour’s TV rights, to create the website. J Golf has had the LPGA’s Web rights as part of its broadcast deal since the start of 2010 but had not activated them until now.

The website in China is a partnership between the tour and Sina, an information and entertainment portal in China that is often compared to Yahoo! in the United States. Sina also operates the PGA Tour’s website in China.

It was during a conversation with LPGA partner Rolex earlier this year that the watchmaker recommended Sina to LPGA officials, and a deal was eventually struck to start a site in China.

The LPGA has just one golfer from China — Shanshan Feng — but the tour anticipates that number growing in coming years. The LPGA also had planned a tournament this year in China, but it was canceled.

In addition to operating the LPGA’s site in China, Sina has a micro-blogging feed similar to Twitter called Weibo. At least seven LPGA players have linked their feeds so that any posts they make to Twitter also are posted on Weibo.

Most of the advertising inventory will be controlled by the local partners in China and Korea, but the LPGA will have access to some of it for its sponsors, Carroll said.

The traffic from Asian viewers on has grown from 1.2 million page views in 2008 to nearly 6 million this year, giving Carroll reason to believe the new language-specific websites will draw well.

“There is some financial upside, but it’s much more about growing the fan base and planting seeds in these countries, especially China,” Carroll said.