The PGA Tour’s TV rights remain locked with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel through 2021. Unlike Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL and NHL, it doesn’t own its own network. However, as it looks towards the future, new commissioner Jay Monahan is hoping to change that.
The Tour can opt out of its contracts with CBS and NBC next year and potentially negotiate new rights deals with the broadcast networks. And down the road, if it doesn’t start its own network, Monahan is looking at purchasing a stake in an existing network. The obvious choice would be Golf Channel which is under the auspices of NBCUniversal.
As Monahan told the Wall Street Journal, getting partial ownership of a network would make financial sense. And in addition to selling rights to its tournaments, the PGA Tour would be able to make more money.
The big question is would Golf Channel’s parent company, Comcast, be willing to sell part of its network to the PGA Tour. Well, Golf Channel is the de facto network of the PGA Tour already airing its tournaments as well as its Champions and Web.com tours. In addition, the PGA Tour is partnering with the LPGA which also has its tournaments airing on Golf Channel.
While the PGA Tour has explored starting its own TV network, Monahan said it’s not necessarily a long-term goal, thus the idea of kicking the tires of buying a stake in an existing network.
And if the PGA Tour does opt out of its contracts with CBS and NBC next year, one of the incentives to make the broadcast deals more attractive is to alter the tournament calendar. Currently starting in October and ending in late September, the Tour is looking at pushing some tournaments like The Players earlier while also tinkering with formats like shortening from four days, 72-holes to a three-day, 54-hole tournament.
It’s all about bringing eyeballs to the tour and with the PGA looking at a day when it has to look beyond Tiger Woods who has been very good to ratings when he was competitive, to depending on the younger stars. And if it means getting a stake in Golf Channel, negotiating a new contract with the networks and tinkering with tournament formats, plus perhaps bringing in Fox which would like to add to its golf portfolio, Jay Monahan is looking at all of the possibilities in raising the sport’s profile in hopes of maximizing revenue and growing the game.