ESPN+ to Become PGA Tour Streaming Home, CBS and NBC Extend Rights Deals

Tiger Woods -TOUR Championship September 23, 2018 - Getty-H 2018
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Under the nine-year deals, PGA Tour Live, the subscription video service that was launched in 2015, will live exclusively on the ESPN streaming service starting in 2022 and will be "dramatically expanded."

The PGA Tour on Monday unveiled new nine-year U.S. media rights deals with existing partners ViacomCBS' CBS and Comcast's NBC Sports and the Golf Channel as well as with new streaming home ESPN+, part of the Walt Disney Co.

Financial terms of the pacts covering 2022-30 weren't disclosed.

For the first time, the PGA Tour negotiated its digital rights concurrently with its linear offerings, leading to ESPN+ becoming its direct-to-consumer home. "As a result of the new agreement, PGA Tour Live — the Tour’s subscription video service that was launched in 2015 — will live exclusively on ESPN+ beginning in 2022 and will be dramatically expanded to include multiple live content channels nearly every week of the FedExCup season," the partners said.

"Following a comprehensive process of studying the market, talking to all interested parties and analyzing our various options, we’re excited to announce that we have entered into new agreements with our existing partners ViacomCBS and Comcast/NBC Sports Group, while establishing a new long-term relationship with Disney and ESPN+," said PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. "We were extremely pleased with the interest we received from the market — both with incumbents and other media companies — and are excited that our current partners shared our vision for the future, and we are equally excited to be back in business with Disney and ESPN+. These new deals will be a major win for our fans, bringing an elevated commitment from all three partners to help us expand and innovate our content and its delivery."

Added Monahan: "The nine-year deals will put us in a position to significantly increase player earnings, deliver more value to our tournaments and sponsors, and ultimately allow us to continue to grow our charitable footprint. Additionally, we are now able to reinvest in our sport in a way never before possible, including production, personnel and technology, and are well positioned to best serve and grow our fan base in the years to come.”

In terms of broadcast and cable TV, CBS and NBC will maintain weekend coverage of most FedExCup tournaments, with CBS averaging 19 events each season, compared with 20 previously, and NBC averaging eight events, compared with 10 previously, over the years covered by the deals. Under the new schedule, one network will televise all three FedExCup Playoffs events each year, with NBC and CBS alternating, starting with the former in 2022.

Golf Channel will be providing all early-round coverage and early weekend coverage of every FedExCup event each season, along with PGA Tour Champions and the Korn Ferry Tour. "The Tour and NBC Sports will expand their collaborative content and programming relationship," the partners said.

The PGA Tour said it will "assume responsibility of the onsite production area and technical infrastructure each week, enabling the Tour to more efficiently aggregate, distribute and develop content for its various platforms worldwide." CBS and NBC will continue to use their own production and announce teams, led by their producers, directors and production personnel.

The partners said they will also "collaborate on creating more sponsorship and marketing opportunities, inside and outside PGA Tour golf coverage, including access to the vast resources of ViacomCBS, Comcast/NBC Sports Group and Disney and ESPN+."

"We are looking forward to working with the PGA Tour to bring current and future golf fans the next generation of Tour coverage," said Jimmy Pitaro, president of ESPN and co-chairman of Disney Media Networks. "ESPN+ will offer golf fans unprecedented access and storytelling at an incredible value on the industry’s leading sports streaming platform."

Said Pete Bevacqua, president, NBC Sports Group: "With more live golf coverage than all other U.S. media companies combined, our relationship with the PGA Tour also includes The Players and Presidents Cup as well as elevating the PGA Tour Champions, Korn Ferry Tour and LPGA Tour via our world-class coverage."

And Sean McManus, chairman, CBS Sports, said: "Extending our successful long-standing relationship with the PGA Tour was a top priority, and we are thrilled to add nine more years to this terrific partnership. As the PGA Tour's primary broadcast network, we are excited to showcase over two-thirds of all broadcast network coverage of the PGA Tour, expand our schedule with all three FedExCup Playoffs events in alternate years and to increase our use of PGA Tour content across all CBS Sports platforms, with even more expansive content exclusivity."

Rick Anderson, chief media officer of the PGA Tour, said the relationship with ESPN+ "gives the Tour the opportunity to expand and diversify audiences, and the Tour and ESPN will work together to bring new and unique content to our fans."

ESPN+ has grown to reach 7.6 million subscribers as of early February. PGA Tour Live on ESPN+ will bring fans more than 4,000 hours of live streaming coverage annually as part of the base ESPN+ subscription.

As part of its Strategic Alliance with the LPGA, the PGA Tour also negotiated rights agreements that will see the women's circuit continue as anchor programming on Golf Channel, along with expanded exposure for LPGA Tour events on NBC and CBS each year, beyond the U.S. Women’s Open, KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and AIG Women’s British Open, which are already on network.

Specifically, the Tour secured the long-term extension of the LPGA/Golf Channel partnership (2022-30) with ancillary programming, including a season preview, season review and Road to the CME Group Tour Championship. In addition, Golf Channel will provide dedicated programming for the Symetra Tour each year, as well as enhanced marketing and promotional assets and expanded benefits for LPGA sponsors.

As part of the new media deals, the LPGA is maintaining women's golf events media rights outside the U.S. and will get expanded digital coverage in the States via existing anchor partner Golf Channel, along with expanded exposure for LPGA Tour events on NBC and CBS.

Said LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan: "Thanks to the enhanced agreement with Golf Channel and increased network coverage on NBC and CBS, more viewers in the U.S. and around the globe will experience the quality and diversity of the LPGA Tour. This gives us a domestic broadcast partner to help deliver another decade of unprecedented growth and provides a foundation that will springboard the women’s game into the future."

Evolution Media Capital, a division of Creative Artists Agency, served as the media adviser to PGA Tour on the new rights deals.