The PGA Tour has reached broad terms on a nine-year television rights extension with its existing partners, CBS and NBC Sports Group.
The nine-year agreement preserves the existing television relationships, with CBS and NBC remaining the Tour's broadcast partners. Golf Channel remains the Tour's primary cable television partner. The deals, which pick up after the current deals end in 2021, will run through the conclusion of 2030. CBS and NBC have in place nine-year deals running from 2013 through 2021. Golf Channel has a 15-year deal in place with the PGA Tour dating back to 2007.
The outline of the agreements, SBJ reports, will mean an increase of approximately 60 percent in the PGA Tour's annual rights fees, increasing from approximately $400 million annually to $700 million annually.
While CBS and NBC are expected to continue carrying a similar load of regular season PGA Tour events from January through July, the new deal changes how the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs are split between the two networks. Over the course of the nine-year deal, NBC and CBS will alternate which network carries the three-event playoff series in full. NBC will get the playoffs five times in the deal, with CBS getting them four times.
CBS made drastic changes to their on-air and production teams, seemingly as part of continuing as the PGA Tour's most visible TV partner. The Eye Network airs the bulk of the PGA Tour's weekend schedule, and the team will have a dramatically new look in 2020, with Davis Love III, Frank Nobilo, Trevor Immelman and Mark Immelman joining the team or increasing their schedule. Michelle Wie has signed on to do limited digital coverage as she figures out the next steps in her pro golf career.
The new additions and alterations came after the network refused to pick up the one-year options for long-time cast members Gary McCord and Peter Kostis. Kostis had been looking to be on the team for one more season before retiring.
CBS Sports' lead coordinating producer for golf, Lance Barrow, announced Dec. 16 that he will be retiring from the role after the season. Veteran CBS producer Sellers Shy will take over the role.
Throughout the process, there were rumors the Tour would seek an ownership stake in the Comcast-owned Golf Channel. It's unclear from the reporting if the PGA Tour secured any ownership stake in the network.
Golf Channel was desperate to make sure they retained PGA Tour broadcast rights. Several sources indicate the company had told employees there would be substantial layoffs if their 15-year deal with the Tour was not extended.
While the TV rights contract is settled, the digital rights deal is not done yet. SBJ reports ESPN, NBC Sports Group and Discovery are jockeying for that deal. ESPN would bring digital rights to its ESPN+ service, effectively taking over the PGA Tour Live deal currently run through NBC Sports Group. Discovery is making a big play to land the domestic digital rights deal to add to their international rights through GolfTV, for which Discovery is paying the Tour $2 billion for a 12-year agreement. Discovery could land the US rights and share them with NBC Sports Group, per SBJ.
It's unclear how this extension will impact the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour Champions broadcasts on Golf Channel.
Further, it's unclear if the LPGA Tour's rights deal has been negotiated and extended as part of this nine-year contract. The LPGA signed a two-year extension with Golf Channel to bring its rights deal to sunset at the same time as the PGA Tour's current deal. The PGA Tour agreed to negotiate their new rights deal as a partner of the LPGA.