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Volume 21 No. 1
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Long Drive Championship taking flight from ESPN to Golf Channel

After 17 years on ESPN, the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship is moving to Golf Channel starting next year.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Golf Channel and the Long Drivers of America agreed on a three-year deal in which the network gives up some ad space for LDA to sell. Golf Channel is not paying a rights fee.

Previously, the LDA had purchased time to appear on ESPN.

Event title sponsor Re/Max also renewed its deal through the 2015 event.
Golf Channel President Mike McCarley negotiated the deal, which runs through 2015, with LDA owner and CEO Art Sellinger. LDA also re-upped with Re/Max as the event’s title sponsor through 2015, Sellinger said.

While the deal is not a big viewership play — last year 422,000 viewers tuned in to ESPN’s tape-delayed telecast on Christmas Eve — the deal continues to show the strength of Golf Channel’s partnership with NBC. And Golf Channel executives believe that the deal further paints their network as the go-to place for all sorts of golf programming.

As part of the deal, Golf Channel will carry the event’s two-hour finale live in prime time. Previously, ESPN carried the finals on tape delay as part of three-year deals the group signed. This year, ESPN3 carried the finals live last week. ESPN is scheduled to carry the event on tape delay eight weeks later on the afternoon of Dec. 23 and Dec. 25.

With the deal, Golf Channel increased the programming commitment considerably. It will carry three prime-time specials in the weeks leading up to the event, including coverage of the qualifying events.

As part of Golf Channel’s strategy to incorporate the NBC broadcast network into more of its programming deals, NBC Sports has committed to air a 60-minute recap of the event later in the year.

“We felt like the event was getting too stale at ESPN. It felt like ‘rinse and repeat,’” said Sellinger. “In the last 24 months, Golf Channel seems to have just exploded. I felt a lot of pressure to get my event on Golf Channel.”

McCarley said he’s had his eyes on this event for several years and plans to market it through Golf Channel’s NBC relationship. “This is the type of event that should be on Golf Channel,” he said. “We want to be the place where golfers and fans of golf can watch and learn about all parts of the game.”