TV, tech executives prep pitches for PGA Tour rights
Television network and tech executives are traveling to the PGA Tour’s Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., headquarters over the next two weeks to make their formal presentations on the Tour’s media rights package.
The tour’s current rights deals with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel are worth an average of around $400 million per year and run through 2021, but tour executives have said that they plan to have a new deal in place by the end of the year.
Underscoring how important the tour’s rights are to media companies, top executives at each of the networks will travel to Ponte Vedra Beach to give presentations to a group led by Chief Media Officer Rick Anderson. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan also will be involved.
AT&T is the first to present on Monday (Sept. 23), with Jeff Zucker, chairman of WarnerMedia News and Sports, and Lenny Daniels, president of Turner Sports, leading the company’s pitch.
CBS Sports executives, led by chairman Sean McManus and president David Berson, will give their presentation the following day. ESPN and Fox Sports had yet to set up meeting times by deadline. President Jimmy Pitaro and Burke Magnus, executive vice president of programming and scheduling, will be part of ESPN’s group; chairman Eric Shanks and president Mark Silverman will be part of Fox Sports’ meeting. Amazon also is expected to set up a meeting, with Marie Donoghue, vice president of global sports video, and Jim DeLorenzo, head of sports, leading its presentation.
NBC Sports Group presents last, during the following week. NBC Sports Group President Pete Bevacqua and Golf Channel President Mike McCarley will lead NBC’s delegation.
The PGA Tour is expected to see big rights fee increases. But its decision to negotiate new deals early carries some risk. The tour is coming to market after a year that saw weekend television viewership (excluding the majors) drop considerably. NBC’s weekend coverage was down 18% this season; CBS’s was down 10%.
The looming NFL rights negotiation also could have an effect on these negotiations. All the networks are prepared to pay a lot more to keep the NFL when its rights come up in 2021 and 2022. The risk is that the prospect of those rights could keep networks from committing as much money as the PGA Tour is hoping for.
The number of interested bidders, though, is working in the tour’s favor. AT&T has told tour officials that it has looked into flipping one of its existing channels (Headline News or truTV) into a golf channel that would pick up the rights that currently are on Golf Channel. It’s likely that AT&T would offer the PGA Tour a stake in that channel.
ESPN is expected to make an aggressive pitch centered on streaming rights for its ESPN+ platform. CBS has carried PGA Tour rights since 1970 and wants to maintain that relationship. Finally, NBC has built a healthy business around PGA Tour rights, like Golf Channel and GolfNow, and is expected to be aggressive in trying to keep them.
Staff Writer John Lombardo contributed to this story.