PGA Tour signs worldwide TV rights deal with Discovery

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Discovery has signed a $2 billion deal for worldwide broadcast rights to all PGA Tour golf tournament until 2030.

The 12-year deal will see the American media giant, which owns pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport, take control of all televised coverage of the PGA Tour circuit across all platforms, excluding the United States, across 220 markets and territories from 2019 onwards, including the UK.

This will include the creation of a new dedicated global PGA Tour-branded streaming service to house all of its live output, alongside traditional linear coverage on Discovery TV channels and its existing online sports streaming service Eurosport Player.

Around 2,000 hours of coverage will be broadcast per year under the new deal, featuring up to 150 tournaments annually, including The Players’ Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup.

The PGA Tour’s new global rights deal will not affect viewers in the UK until at least 2022, when the current seven-year deal with Sky Sports expires, though Sky now faces a battle to retain coverage of one of its flagship sports, having only launched its own dedicated golf channel as part of a major rebrand in 2017.

Discovery is set to sub-license the rights in selected markets to pay-TV and free-to-air broadcasters, which could give Sky the opportunity to hold onto the rights in some form beyond 2021.

But the UK pay-TV broadcaster, which has recently lost European rugby, La Liga football and ATP tennis rights, now faces the decision of whether to negotiate a sub-licence agreement with a direct rival or lose another high-profile sporting property entirely.

Discovery’s global PGA Tour golf rights deal follows its similar acquisition in 2015 of European-wide TV rights to the Olympic Games, which saw the media giant negotiate a subsequent sub-licensing agreement with the BBC for free-to-air coverage in the UK until at least 2024.

The media giant 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 Netflix-style over-the-top (OTT) platform available outside the United States, with a gradual increase of annual investment during the term.

Commenting on its investment in PGA Tour golf, David Zaslav, President and CEO of 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.”

The new partnership with the PGA will be led by Discovery’s Alex Kaplan, who was previously an executive at Eurosport and the NBA. Kaplan said:

“I am incredibly excited 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, we have a unique opportunity to build an amazing product that will serve the fans with the golf content they love on every screen.”

The deal marks a distinct break with the PGA Tour’s previous media rights deals, which has since 2007 negotiated all of its non-U.S. broadcast rights deals on its own.

Discovery says that it will work with the PGA Tour to execute an international distribution and broadcast partner strategy for all of its events across each territories’ free-to-air, pay-TV and digital platforms.

Jay Monahan, Commissioner, PGA TOUR, added:

“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.”

A senior PGA Tour source confirmed to The Guardian that the rights in the UK market will be “open to negotiation” in the future. Sky Sports will remain the principal UK broadcaster of PGA Tour golf events until the end of 2021, while its deal to show European Tour events expires at the end of this year.

Sky Sports first covered live PGA Tour golf in 1991 and held the rights up to 2007 when the ill-fated Setanta Sports briefly took over the rights for three years. After a brief period on Eurosport following the Irish broadcaster’s liquidation in 2009, the rights returned to Sky in 2010.

Sky holds long term contracts for live coverage of men’s and women’s major championships, including The Open Championship and the U.S. Open, however the broadcaster lost the rights to show the US PGA Championship last year, with no TV deal as yet in place for the 2018 tournament.

Reports have also suggested that Sky’s relationship with the Masters committee is strained, raising the possibility that all four days of the Augusta tournament could return to the BBC.

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