Discovery and the PGA Tour have announced plans to form a new alliance, with the aim of creating an international multi-platform home for golf outside the United States. But what does that mean?
For Sky Sports, who have been a major part of golf coverage in the UK for over 20 years, it could indicate the start of a difficult road ahead. Their current contract with the PGA Tour runs until 2022 and guarantees nothing will change immediately, but with other contracts close to ending and a recent struggle to keep major championships under their control, it could signify trouble for the broadcaster.
A 12 year deal agreed between Discovery and the PGA Tour is set to start next year and last until 2030, and it does beg the question about what will happen to Sky Sports Golf if they eventually lose the rights to broadcast the PGA Tour. And it's a trend that has already begun.
The quality of Sky Sports' coverage is undisputable, but it was the numbers that spoke most to the USGA when they decided not to renew their contract for the PGA Championship last year and opted for the BBC as host broadcaster instead. Sky also struggled to retain rights to broadcast The Masters, only agreeing to a deal in January for the 2018 edition after competition from BT Sport.
"It was a multi-year deal that was up," the PGA of America’s chief commercial officer, Jeff Price, had said at the time about the US PGA Championship. "Ultimately one of the key things for us is scale of distribution and obviously with all the new platforms that consumers are engaging with, we want to make sure we reach all of them."
While the broadcaster has recently agreed a new two-year deal with the Ladies European Tour to last until 2019, their current coverage deal of European Tour events ends at the end of 2018, a contract which includes the Ryder Cup, while their rights to cover the Open don't end until 2021.
For now, the new deal with Discovery includes broadcast rights to The Players, the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup, but if it proves to be a success there will no doubt be a further battle for Sky to remain in control of the major championships - and coverage of the PGA Tour itself.
So What Is This New Partnership Between Discovery & The PGA Tour?
The new partnership is said to be working towards a new international multi-platform home for golf on every screen and device - seeking to benefit the game worldwide and helping to drive golf’s fan base and grow the sport around the world.
In addition to live linear rights in 220 markets and territories, Discovery and The PGA Tour are planning to roll out the dedicated PGA Tour Live streaming service (available in the US) in a bid to reach an international audience, and the partnership has stated they will offer 2,000 hours of content a year. This will include the six Tours operating under the PGA Tour umbrella and nearly 150 tournaments annually, including The Players Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs, and the Presidents Cup.
Discovery expects to invest more than $2 billion over the course of the alliance, including licensing of the PGA TOUR’s international media rights and building a global OTT platform available outside the United States, with a gradual increase of annual investment during the term.
Working together, the parties expect to execute on a robust international distribution and broadcast partner strategy for the portfolio of some of golf’s most prestigious tournaments featuring the world’s greatest players, optimizing reach across free-to-air, pay-TV and digital.
David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery, said: “Today is a fantastic day for golf fans around the world as Discovery proudly partners with the PGA TOUR to create something that has never been done before. The long-term partnership between the PGA TOUR and Discovery will create the new global Home of Golf, including delivering over 2000 hours of live content year-round and this prestigious sport’s greatest moments, stories and athletes. Following our successful first Olympic Games in PyeongChang, Discovery will contribute its strong global distribution and promotional infrastructure, in-market relationships, global sports expertise with direct-to-consumer platforms and brands to create a valuable new long-term Home of Golf offering in every market outside the US.”
Jay Monahan, Commissioner, PGA TOUR, said: “This is an exciting next step for the PGA TOUR, which presents a tremendous opportunity to accelerate and expand our media business outside the United States, better service our international broadcast partners, and drive fan growth with a deeply experienced strategic global partner. This partnership aligns very well with the opening of PGA TOUR offices in London, Tokyo and Beijing in recent years and will support our long-term objectives of growing the game of golf. It also will deliver more value to our sponsors as it presents a tremendous opportunity to engage new and diverse audiences around the world.”
The business will be led by Discovery’s Alex Kaplan, President and General Manager of the new Discovery and PGA TOUR venture.
Kaplan said: “I am incredibly excited to work with David Zaslav and JB Perrette to take international coverage of PGA TOUR golf to the next level. We can’t wait to get started and build a world-class global platform and long-term distribution strategy to turn the vision of this partnership into a reality. By joining forces with the outstanding PGA TOUR team, led by Jay Monahan and Rick Anderson, we have a unique opportunity to build an amazing product that will serve the fans with the golf content they love on every screen.”