PGA TOUR reaches television agreements


PONTE VEDRA, Fla. -- The PGA TOUR Wednesday announced the completion of new television agreements. Under the term of new six-year network deals, CBS and NBC will provide weekend coverage of the PGA TOUR FedEx Cup competition for the 2007 through 2012 seasons. Also beginning in 2007, The Golf Channel will become the TOUR’s exclusive cable partner. The new agreements also provide for the move of THE PLAYERS Championship to a new May date and a new broadcast format with limited commercial interruptions.

PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said, “We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of these discussions. We have been able to streamline and solidify our television presence for the long term through this alignment with two very strong network partners and an exclusive cable provider. These agreements will drive enormous value to sponsors. And it’s a big win for our fans, because these television partners will provide the continuity and quality of coverage that will bring out the drama of the season-long FedEx Cup competition, while also positioning THE PLAYERS Championship for maximum impact and fan interest.”

“We are also delighted with the financial benefits of these agreements,” Finchem said. “We achieved our primary objective of securing continued solid growth in financial benefits to players. Under the new agreements, total prize money and other financial benefits to players will increase approximately $600 million over the term as compared to the previous six years, a 35-percent increase.

“The new agreements also improve our ability to generate charitable giving through our tournaments at a level sufficient to reach our goal of a second billion in all-time charitable donations in less than 10 years,” Finchem said. “In addition, these new agreements will allow us to increase the resources necessary to assist our tournaments in their continued growth.

“Our sport is now very well positioned for long-term continued growth and success,” Finchem said.

Some of the highlights of the new agreements include:

CBS agreement

CBS will expand its current role as the dominant carrier of PGA TOUR golf, increasing its annual event coverage from 16 to 19. It will have the majority of West Coast events, including the broadcast of the Buick Invitational in San Diego and the Nissan Open in the Los Angeles market. CBS will also have a strong run through the spring and summer months of FedEx Cup competition, including the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship and the first event of the four-event Championship Series, which culminates the FedEx Cup season.

“CBS is delighted that it has expanded its relationship with the PGA TOUR,” said Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports. “We value our relationship with the TOUR very highly, and have tremendous confidence that the TOUR is well-positioned for continued growth and success. We’re excited to play such a key role in that growth, and look forward to our expanded schedule. Continuing as the lead carrier of events was very important to us, because we believe the new season-long FedEx Cup competition will bring additional fans to the sport and add drama throughout the schedule.

NBC Agreement

NBC will add five new PGA TOUR events, doubling its current roster of five. In addition to continuing its weekend telecasts of THE PLAYERS Championship, now moving to an early May date, NBC becomes the network home of the final three weeks of the Championship Series. NBC has also secured the rights to two World Golf Championships, including the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in late February as a prelude to its traditional five-event March run. Newly added to the March run of events will be the World Golf Championships-CA Championship, to be played at Doral Golf Resort and Spa. (A separate announcement is also being issued about this new WGC event). NBC has also secured the rights to continue coverage of The Presidents Cup through the 2011 event.

“We knew going into our discussions with the TOUR that NBC wanted to become an even bigger player in TOUR programming,” said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics. “We are delighted that we are doubling the number of TOUR events we’ll cover. We’ll be continuing our coverage of golf’s Southern Swing in March and we are particularly excited to extend our relationship with THE PLAYERS Championship, which should have an even greater impact in its new May date. We’re also excited about covering the final three weeks of the Championship Series, two World Golf Championships and The Presidents Cup, and the high level of competition and drama those events each embodies.”

Commissioner’s Comments on Network Agreements

“We are extremely enthused about the alignment with two network partners of such reach and experience for the FedEx Cup season,” Finchem said. “Both CBS and NBC present the PGA TOUR at a high level, and have the talent, tradition and commitment to elevate PGA TOUR telecasts yet again. We feel we are now very well positioned for the long-term with these two outstanding partners, each of whom offers the TOUR the broadest possible reach to both avid and casual fans of golf.

“Over the long-term, we think this new two-network model is going to work extremely effectively for the TOUR,” Finchem said. “It offers fans and sponsors the very significant benefits of better continuity and promotion.”

“We would like to acknowledge the contributions that ABC and ESPN have made to our sport over many years,” Finchem said. “They have been tremendous partners, and we thank them for their support and commitment.”

The Golf Channel agreement

The TOUR has formed a strategic, exclusive cable partnership with The Golf Channel. Under the agreement, The Golf Channel will provide early-round coverage of all TOUR official money events. In addition, The Golf Channel will provide full coverage of the first three events of the PGA TOUR FedEx Cup season (Mercedes Championships, Sony Open in Hawaii, and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic), as well as the Fall Series events following THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola.

In addition to event coverage, the agreement with The Golf Channel provides for significant PGA TOUR promotion and branding. Also, TGC and the TOUR will work closely together to further increase distribution beyond the already significant 70 million homes and increase The Golf Channel’s visibility and appeal to the TOUR’s fan base. In order to fully accomplish these joint objectives, the agreement with The Golf Channel provides for a term of 15 years.

“These new agreements represent a huge step forward for The Golf Channel, and offer fans of PGA TOUR golf a consistent and quality home for a very significant amount of programming,” said Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation. “The Golf Channel has had a great first 10 years, and this dynamic new long-term relationship will take it to the next level in the years to come. We look forward with significant enthusiasm to our expanded PGA TOUR partnership.”

“Given The Golf Channel’s core golf audience and ever-growing number of new viewers, developing a long-term, strategic partnership with the TOUR makes sense for both parties,” said David Manougian, president of The Golf Channel. “Golf fans around the world know us as ‘Golf’s Home,’ and we are looking forward to showcasing the excitement and drama the TOUR can deliver to our viewers week after week. Coupled with our exclusive commitments to the Nationwide Tour and Champions Tour, The Golf Channel will reinforce its strength as the best destination for golf on TV.”

Commissioner’s Comments on The Golf Channel Agreements

“Adding a very significant PGA TOUR role for The Golf Channel further solidifies the presentation of our sport to the fans,” Finchem said. “The Golf Channel has developed at a tremendous rate over only a decade. This agreement provides us the opportunity to work together with The Golf Channel to fully inform our fans about our players, tournaments, sponsors and charity. We are delighted with the commitment they are making to significant production and promotional enhancements in the years to come.

“Further, the association with Comcast is especially appealing,” Finchem said. “The wide array of Comcast’s promotional assets and its forward thinking in the media and communications industry substantially enhances the value of this new partnership.”

Champions Tour

The Golf Channel will also be the exclusive cable partner of the Champions Tour. The term of the agreement is 15 years to coincide with the PGA TOUR agreements. The new PGA TOUR agreements also provide for network coverage of select Champions Tour events, and a separate announcement on these events will be made within the next 30 days.

Nationwide Tour

The agreement for The Golf Channel to cover Nationwide Tour events has also been extended for the same 15-year period. During the agreement, The Golf Channel will cover a minimum of 14 Nationwide Tour events per year, and will be the exclusive cable partner of the Nationwide Tour.

THE PLAYERS Championship

Beginning in 2007, THE PLAYERS Championship’s new date will be the second week in May. The new date will elevate the focus on the event and improve the schedule’s overall spacing of those events that bring all the world’s best players together. Further, THE PLAYERS Championship will be televised by NBC under a limited commercial format with commercial messages restricted to three exclusive partners.

Additionally, THE PLAYERS will feature enhanced television coverage and air times, with six hours of early round coverage each day on The Golf Channel, followed by new later air times on the weekend during the NBC broadcast, which will run from 2-7 p.m. ET each day.

These new developments are coupled with previously announced plans to restore the firm, fast playing conditions of the famed Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass. Additionally, an improved on-site fan experience and a complete upgrading of the facility’s infrastructure through the creation of a new clubhouse and other amenities, will ensure that the 2007 PLAYERS Championship will be fundamentally enhanced for both competitors and fans.

Commissioner Finchem said, “In partnership with NBC and our sponsors, we will now be able to offer the golf fan an absolutely premium experience. The limited commercial inventory, coupled with a competition that traditionally features the year’s strongest field tackling an extremely challenging golf course, will ensure that THE PLAYERS becomes a ‘can’t miss’ viewing experience for the fan.”

World Golf Championships

As previously mentioned, NBC will become the network broadcast partner of the World Golf Championships-CA Championship, to be played in March, 2007 at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa. This event replaces the current World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, which will be played in September, 2006 at The Grove in Hertfordshire, England. Eligibility will continue to be the top 50 players from the Official World Golf Ranking along with top finishers on the money lists of the six Tours comprising the International Federation of PGA Tours.

NBC will also be the network home for the Accenture Match Play Championship. This dramatic match play event will continue to be played in February and feature the top 64 available players based on the Official World Golf Rankings.

CBS will broadcast the season’s final World Golf Championships event, the Bridgestone Invitational, to be played annually in early August at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. This event also features an elite field comprised of approximately 75 players, including members of the last-named U.S. and International Presidents Cup and U.S. And European Ryder Cup teams, top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and other tournament winners from around the world.

The Golf Channel will telecast early round coverage for each of the three World Golf Championships events throughout the term.