PGA of America agrees to 11-year deal with CBS, ESPN

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CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus | Richard Shotwell/In vision-AP

The PGA Championship will remain with CBS Sports and pick up a powerful partner in ESPN for weekday rounds as part of an 11-year agreement in which the networks will combine to deliver 175 hours of coverage across broadcast, cable and digital platforms.

Financial terms of the deal announced Wednesday were not disclosed, though it was clear the PGA Championship is more attractive held in May than in August.

The agreement gives CBS and ESPN, which broadcast the Masters, the first two majors of the year.

“I can tell you from our standpoint, the property was more valuable in May than in August,” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports. “We are paying a rights fee increase. It was definitely a more attractive package.”

McManus said the number of households watching on TV is higher in May, and he spoke of a “halo effect” in broadcasting the next major after the Masters, which is the highest-rated golf telecast of the year.

The PGA Championship had been held in August for the better part of 50 years. It moves next year to May as part of a restructured schedule that allows the PGA Tour to conclude its FedEx Cup on Aug. 25, a week before the start of football.

When the CBS-ESPN deal begins in 2020, the PGA Championship will be at Harding Park in San Francisco.

CBS first broadcast the PGA Championship from 1958 through 1964, and continuously since 1991. The network will continue to provide weekend coverage, adding an extra hour Saturday and Sunday under the new deal.

“Premium content such as the PGA represents the past, present and future of CBS,” said Joe Ianniello, president and acting CEO of CBS Corp. “There is nothing like live sports programming to attract a mass audience and drive our business.”

Still be determined is a broadcast schedule for ESPN, which replaces Turner Sports.

ESPN offers a network dedicated to sports, along with “ESPN+” a subscription-based streaming service sold directly to the consumer that can provide an array of programming from featured groups, featured players or specific hole coverage.

“The general vision here is what the PGA wants to do,” said Burke Magnus, executive vice president of programming and scheduling for ESPN. “They want every hole of competition covered over the four days, from the first group on Thursday. They want it all covered in one way or form. And that’s right in our wheelhouse. … We will have an array of complimentary presentation.”

CBS will be in charge of production, just as it is at the Masters.

The PGA of America’s current deal expires next year, and given the pursuit of live programming, it became a valuable property during negotiations. Along with the financial aspect, CBS Sports was helped by being the incumbent and having established a strong relationship with the PGA of America.

PGA of America chief executive Seth Waugh said partnering with ESPN provides “72 holes of coverage on a network known for sports.”

ESPN previously had weekday rounds of the U.S. Open before those rights went to Fox Sports in 2015. It also had the British Open as recently as 2015 until those rights went to NBC Sports and Golf Channel.

ESPN last televised the PGA Championship in 1990.

“The move to May, generally speaking, was a huge motivation for trying to get us involved there,” Magnus said. “Having the first two majors is exciting, and May is a big, active month for us with the NBA playoffs, College World Series and the NFL draft the last week in April. It fits perfectly for us.”

Beyond the PGA Championship, the networks plan to showcase key PGA programs such as the PGA Junior League Championship, which will be telecast on ESPN networks; the club professionals who qualify for the PGA Championship and elevating the PGA Minority College Championship.

Waugh said anyone would have reason to be nervous over an 11-year deal in an industry where viewing habits are changing by the year.

“We’re pricing an 11-year deal where the value for these guys will be on the back end, not on the front end,” Waugh said. “The number ahead of the current market over the length of it will be good for them.”

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