On the linear front, the PGA Tour is maintaining the status quo with new rights deals, reportedly extending existing deals with CBS and NBC/Golf Channel, albeit for more money.
Digital streaming rights are a different story, though. According to a report from AP golf writer Doug Ferguson, the rights to PGA Tour Live streaming content will move to ESPN+ as part of a new deal.
Via the Associated Press:
Two people aware of the negotiations say ESPN has emerged as the winner of the streaming sweepstakes, which currently belongs to NBC Sports. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal is not finalized.
Live streaming would be available on ESPN+.
It would not be the first time ESPN+ has shown the PGA Tour. It had a portion of PGA Tour Live in 2018 — it was run by BAMTech, of which Disney had acquired a controlling stake the previous summer. PGA Tour Live moved to NBC Sports Gold for 2019 and this year.
ESPN previously won the rights to weekday coverage of the PGA Championship starting this year at Harding Park and plans to offer supplemental feeds on ESPN+.
The move makes a lot of sense for the PGA Tour. ESPN+ is in a much more stable position now thanks to an ever-growing subscriber base and the Disney+ bundle option. Plus the Tour was already in business with NBC/Comcast; this further diversifies the product via a relationship with Disney. There are only so many entertainment/media conglomerates remaining, after all. Further, ESPN is a perfect partner for the Tour for a very simple reason: they care about sports.
The PGA Championship (not affiliated with the PGA Tour, but a major nonetheless) moves early round coverage to ESPN from TNT this year, and ESPN remains the Thursday and Friday home of the Masters as well. ESPN clearly cares about ESPN+, and therefore has an incentive to drive traffic there. And from personal experience, I’ve had more technical issues trying to watch PGA Tour Live via NBC Sports Gold than I ever have watching ESPN+. Form a consumer standpoint, it’s nice to have it wrapped in with other content as well; the PGA Tour takes a few months off, after all, and not all of their offseason events feature PGA Tour Live coverage.
It just feels like a better fit for both parties: it adds more content to appeal to current or potential ESPN+ subscribers, and it gets the PGA Tour Live product in front of a wider audience while diversifying the PGA Tour’s media partnerships.
It’s almost a shame that the deal doesn’t kick in until after this year.