The PGA Tour's new multimedia rights deals may center on long-term extensions for broadcasters CBS and NBC, but Golf Channel will get to play through as well.
With their current pacts set to expire at the end of the 2012 golf season, CBS and NBC sank nine-year extensions through 2021. The deals, financial terms of which were not disclosed, make CBS and NBC's pacts co-terminus with that of Golf Channel, which signed a 15-year PGA Tour deal that went on course in 2007. Golf will also be able to provide supplemental live TV coverage to the Peacock's weekend presentations.
Under its extension, CBS will continue to air 20 PGA events annually, keeping the rights to the "West Coast Swing," the World Golf Championships' Bridgestone Invitational, the Wyndham Championship and The Barclays, which opens the FedEx Cup Playoffs. CBS will maintain more than 130 PGA Tour hours of live weekend coverage per year. That total climbs to 150 when its presentation of the majors, The Masters and PGA Championship, are factored into the scheduling mix, according to CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus.
NBC continues its slate of 10 events per year, with more than 75 hours of live coverage annually. The network retains its rights to the Accenture Match Play Championship, Cadillac Championship, Players Championship and the final three events playoff events -- Deutsche Bank, BMW and Tour Championship. The biennial President's Cup will also continue to be part of NBC's roster.
The new pact also greatly expands the PGA Tour's coverage on digital platforms, featuring simulcasts of live action on PGATour.com, CBSSports.com, NBCSports.com and GolfChannel.com, which will extend to mobile devices and tablets. Coverage will encompass marquee holes, highlights and regular live updates from the tournament sites.
PGA commissioner Tim Finchem, in announcing the new deals on Sept. 1, said the tour increased its rights fees, but would not specify the amounts.
The tour's current network contracts, reached in 2006 and worth a reported $2.95 billion, were set to expire after the 2012 season. The tour's contract with Comcast's Golf Channel also expires in 2021.
Both McManus and NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus said the deal would continue to be profitable for their respective companies.
The rights extensions follow the PGA Tour solidifying its sponsorship base in recent years, despite the iffy economy, an effort that has yielded 10 new title tournament sponsors and renewals for a dozen others. Through these arrangements, which also require that the sponsors run commercials in events that don't bear their names, the tour brings more than two-thirds of the advertising inventory to its network partners, whose long-standing runs with the PGA have proven to be mutually beneficial.
"CBS has been televising golf for more than 50 years. It was important to get this deal done," said McManus in an interview, noting the long-term pact is in keeping with its current 15-year deal with the Southeastern Conference, CBS's 14-year pact with Turner Sports for the NCAA Men's Division Basketball Championships and Black Rock's eight-year contract with the PGA of America for that major.
"Broadcast continues to be a very important component for the PGA Tour, not just in attracting sponsors, but keeping those sponsors on long-term deals," he said. "We're going to be profitable each year of the deal."
Asked if there might be an opportunity for cable service CBS Sports Network to get in on the links action, McManus said he'd consider some studio or talk fare. However, any such movement would have to gain outside approbation. "We'd like the opportunity, but Golf Channel holds the cable rights," he said.
Golf, which holds four-day rights to 15 tourneys, plus the Thursday-Friday rounds before 33 events, will be able to pair with the Peacock's broadcast presentation by focusing on certain pairings or training its cameras on all of the players battling signature holes, say the 17th at the Players, or the "Bear Trap" closing trio at the National Champions Course. Some of these innovations will be implemented in 2012, while many more will be in place by 2013.
Coupled with its own rights and NBC's tournament streams being redirected to the cable network's site, GolfChannel.com expects to simulcast 1,000 PGA hours when the new contract takes hold in 2013. Teamed together under the NBC Sports Group following Comcast gaining control of the programmer from General Electric in January, NBC has rebranded its PGA Tour telecasts as "Golf Channel on NBC."
The new deal also affirms Golf's rights to continue showing some weekend coverage before the tour's broadcasters come on the air. In addition to providing coverage preceding NBC's tournament telecasts, Golf has been showing on-course action before 10-12 of CBS's tourneys over the last several years. Scheduling - Golf has commitments to the European, Nationwide, LPGA and Champions Tours - will determine whether the network ups its early weekend PGA ante.
Finchem was sanguine in a conference call announcing the deal, indicating that 165 million viewers have tuned in PGA events this year. He points to interest in a new crop of exciting players, as well as veterans like Phil Mickelson and the former world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who continues to try and find his game following physical and marital woes. "The Tiger effect" has been ratings gold for the PGA over the years.
"There is such tremendous buzz and focus on this juxtaposition of Tiger and Phil [Mickelson] and other veteran players against this huge increase of young players who are coming forward and are able to win tournaments," Finchem said.