Tiger Woods of the United States celebrates after sinking his putt to win on the 18th green during the final round of the 2019 Masters
Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
The PGA Tour has struck a new, nine-year domestic media rights deal with ViacomCBS and Comcast’s NBCUniversal that will keep weekend coverage of most tournaments on CBS and NBC.
The deal will value the total package of rights at about $700 million per year, more than a 70 percent increase over the PGA’s prior rights agreement, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.
CBS will broadcast an average of 19 tour events per year over the course of the deal and NBC will average eight. The new deal begins in 2022 and ends in 2030. Either CBS or NBC will televise all three FedExCup Playoffs events each year, starting with NBC in 2022 and generally alternating with CBS. The FedExCup is a season-long points competition culminating in three events to determine the FedExCup champion, who wins $15 million.
The PGA set up its cable, broadcast and digital rights to renew at the same time so that it could maximize revenue by negotiating with traditional media and digital players about rights renewal, said Rick Anderson, the PGA Tour’s chief media officer. But after talking to the entire market, the PGA decided to stay with incumbent partners, Anderson said.
“Golf is a foundational sport for us,” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports. “From the time we finish broadcasting college basketball to the time college football and the NFL begins, PGA golf is really our primary programming. To try to replace that with something anywhere close to as prestigious is really difficult.”
The rights agreement is particularly important for ViacomCBS, which is stockpiling valuable sports rights while it looks to compete against much larger players including Disney, Comcast and Amazon. Both ViacomCBS and NBCUniversal are also interested in renewing their National Football League rights. Preliminary discussions on those renewals have already begun and will likely heat up after the NFL and players agree on a collective bargaining agreement.
“Sports programming becomes more and more valuable because of the audience it generates,” McManus said. “We got our PGA Tour deal done. The NFL rights will be our next really big negotiation. It’s a really big deal that we’ll try to consummate.”
The rights renewal also comes as a new golf league — the Premier Golf League — tries to recruit the biggest names in golf away from the PGA Tour, including Tiger Woods. Rory McIlroy has publicly stated he won’t leave the PGA Tour for the new league. Brooks Koepka said last month that even huge pay packages from the PGL wouldn’t be enough to take him away from the PGA unless many of his fellow top golfers also left.
New digital rights package
For the first time ever, the PGA Tour carved out a separate digital rights package for Disney’s ESPN+. The tour’s subscription video service PGA Tour Live, first launched in 2015, will now be a part of ESPN+. Disney paid about $75 million annually for the digital rights, according to two people familiar with the matter.
That service, which previously cost $9.99 per month or $64.99 per year as an a la carte offering, will now come standard for anyone with an ESPN+ subscription — a $4.99 per month service. ESPN+ subscribers will be able to watch four separate live feeds of various playing groups in 28 tournaments throughout the year, though live content will be limited when events are broadcasting live on CBS and NBC. ESPN’s deal also includes highlights rights for use across ESPN platforms and other on-demand video for ESPN+.
“Credit to the PGA Tour for putting a stake down in the direct-to-consumer game early,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming acquisitions and scheduling. As streaming services have added more content for prices largely under $10 per month, the PGA realized its standalone product was probably no longer a viable option, Magnus said.
NBCUniversal, which owns Golf Channel, will continue carrying all early-round coverage and early weekend coverage of every FedExCup event as the tour’s sole cable partner. LPGA tournaments will continue to be aired on Golf Channel with expanded coverage for at least seven events on CBS and NBC annually. The LPGA maintains control of all of its international media rights.
“It was a priority to retain the broadcast package with cable exclusivity,” said NBC Sports president Pete Bevacqua.
The agreement doesn’t include the four major tournaments, which are negotiated separately. Augusta National handles the Masters rights, PGA of America negotiates the PGA Championship, the USGA is in charge of the US Open, and the R&A manages The Open (The British Open).
Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.
WATCH: Here are the biggest challenges facing the sports industry now