Though the PGA Tour’s media deal with CBS and the Golf Channel continues through 2021, the organization is testing the market this fall in the hopes of firming up a plan for the future by the end of the year. “I understand the angst that creates for incumbent partners,” PGA Tour chief media officer Rick Anderson said. A partner change would also leave his property as a lame duck at its current homes. So why the rush?
“You think about entertainment and sports in general—it’s like another golden age for content,” Anderson said. “I think any rightsholder that could come to market now probably would.”
A quick look at the landscape: FOX is currently laser focused on sports and live events. Disney is still adding content on ABC, ESPN, and its digital platforms. CBS has shown it’s determined to retain its longstanding properties. NBC most recently proved its interest in the game, adding PGA TOUR LIVE to its NBC Sports Gold umbrella.
WarnerMedia is looking for a deal too, reportedly considering turning truTV into a golf-centric channel as part of its pursuit. Then there are the digital contenders, from sports-only DAZN to everything store Amazon.
Anderson said the PGA has “an open mind” about possible partnership permutations, and he believes with over 1,000 hours of content on TV already, the Tour can provide action for multiple platforms. “We’re currently only capturing 20% of shots,” he said. “We’re thinking about, How do we capture every single shot? And then having done that, we know we can package it into lots of different products.” Imagine a free stream of only tee shots on Twitter, for example, or paying $5 to see every shot of a Rory McIlroy round on a new direct-to-consumer platform.
The complexities and possibilities involved are another reason for the PGA’s advanced timeline. They want to give whoever wins the rights enough time to, say, rebrand a channel, or develop a new digital offering. Whenever a deal is signed, it could last into the 2030s.
“Media companies will say…we’ll invest in that content but we need some time, because the landscape is changing, to figure out the models that work and eventually have the deal make sense,” Anderson said. “Our expectation is that this is probably going to require a longer term [partnership]. When I first started doing this it was three-year or four-year deals. Now it’s eight, nine, ten.”
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