PGA CEO On Ryder Cup Re-Up: "When we start to talk about our strategic mission to serve our members...you don’t have to look further than the Golf Channel to understand that they really are that daily voice of golf"
I've sobered up after the drinking game gone bad that was today's PGA of America/NBC conference call to announce a Ryder Cup rights extension to 2030.
Considering the USGA pre-empted this year's PGA Championship to rush their Fox Sports broadcast deal in a woefully unsuccessful attempt to generate a few more cents per FSN1 subscriber, I had budgeted for three shots in the "jabs at the USGA-Fox deal" Jello-shot game.
Before a question could even be asked, I was already sounding like Foster Brooks.
First off, was Ted Bishop, PGA President.
Through this partnership, viewers will enjoy a wave of new programming and special coverage that includes Ryder Cup preview shows, vignettes, features, reports and points updates on NBC and Golf Channel; a Ryder Cup documentary series on both networks; live practice round coverage for the first time ever, and the Ryder Cup Captain Selection Show on the Golf Channel.
Live practice round coverage! I'm still trying wrap my head around that, but I have a feeling it'll go something like this:
Lerner: "Let's bring our Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte in here. Tim? What kind of match is that Mickelson, Bradley, Spieth and Mahan are playing?"
Rosaforte: "Lernie, I saw J-Spieth today at The Gleneagles Hotel gift shop buying his first razor and talked shop with him for about 30 minutes. He told me Philly Mick was in the mood for a little Let It Ride action, with 50 points for a bogey, ten for a par, 100 for a birdie and 500 for an eagle at a hundred bones a point. Butch Harmon just texted me that the Bradley-Mickelson pairing is up 250 points with three to go."
Lerner: "Tim, keep us posted on how that turns out, please. Brandel, did you shop for your first razor in a four-star hotel gift shop? Is that a good idea?"
And you know what's really sad? I'll watch every second of it.
Okay, back to the drinking game better known as, the teleconference subtly reminding you why the USGA Really Messed Up. The Bishop again:
Finally, from my standpoint, it became apparent to me on the night that we announced that Bethpage would host the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, that this exciting extension was going to take place.
September the 17th was truly a great day for the PGA of America. It’s been hard to contain our excitement.
We had very productive conversations with Commissioner Finchem and certainly respected the President’s Cup last week, and that’s why we’re doing this announcement this week. So thanks to all involved.
The deal was sealed three weeks ago, the ink's dry, but somehow everyone involved was able to sit on it until an opportune time to announce. So much for sound organizational practices and protecting the shareholders of publicly traded companies! Well, to the USGA, some of us are just clueless about this.
Pete Bevacqua, PGA CEO:
Finally, I’d like to echo Ted’s sentiments by congratulating our friends at NBC for their unwavering commitment to the PGA of America, to our PGA professionals and to the game of golf, and particularly to Mark Lazarus and to Jon Miller. I’ve known Jon for well over a decade, and on a personal and professional level I’m so excited to know that we’ll be working together for the foreseeable future.
On a non-zinger note, it was nice to see a TV guy like NBC's Mark Lazarus suggest that the venues matter:
Mark Lazarus: Our philosophy with all sports that we televise is to tell stories, to make viewers feel a sense of caring about the participants and about the venues. Some of these wonderful historic venues that the Ryder Cup and the Senior PGA Championship will visit are really extraordinary in regards to that.
And the Golf Channel as a partner, as opposed to, oh, I don't know say Fox Sports 1, Bevacqua said without prompting:
Pete Bevacqua: And, Mark, if I can just add to this, what was such an attractive component of the continuation of this relationship for us is if you look at the Golf Channel as the broadcast voice of golf on a daily basis in America, and the PGA of America is really the tangible connection between the game, and quite frankly everybody who plays it in this country, what we can do together to promote the game and to attract new golfers into the game is really one of the most exciting components of this relationship.
Oh come on Pete, Fox Sports 1 has great potential to be on every golf course television in America. Just as soon as anyone can find it on the dial.
Regarding NBC's total lack of freshness and innovativeness, the PGA of America will tolerate Tommy Roy. The guy the USGA didn't think was cutting it before their partner tried to offer him a job.
Ted Bishop: Well, I think that it would go beyond just one thing. It’s a combination of things, and it goes back to the great history that we’ve had, and the confidence that we have in our partner like NBC to deliver the quality of production and to create the storylines and the drama that have really seen the Ryder Cup emerge into arguably one of the greatest sporting events since we entered into this marriage with NBC back in 1991 at Kiawah.
When you look at NBC’s ability to produce golf telecasts, who knows whether Tommy Roy will be around in 2030, but he just does a phenomenal job. I think that the PGA of America cares greatly about the quality of the product and the production.
I don’t think that when it came to the Ryder Cup, there was anybody that we would feel more comfortable with in entering into a long-term agreement, based on what they’ve done in the past, what we expect in the future in terms of their innovation, and their ability to be always on the cutting edge of the production aspect of golf than NBC.
And about strengthening those ties to Golf Channel, something the USGA just couldn't put a dollar figure on, the PGA fully understood the importance of having them on board. Bevacqua, piling on:
When you start talking about some of the exciting programs that we have like Get Golf Ready, it’s one thing to talk about those during a golf telecast, but it’s another to be able to talk about those on a daily basis on the Golf Channel and across the spectrum of what NBC offers. So you can start talking to women on shows that women traditionally watch, and you can start talking to children on shows that children traditionally watch. You start to talk beyond the converted, and start to preach the message of golf and the benefits of golf beyond the converted. We think that is critical, and something that NBC can deliver like no one else in the industry.
Ted, would you like to pile on, I mean, add to that?
I think that the thing that is exciting about this deal is to look at the magnitude of what the potential is for that type of exposure for PGA members through the partnership that we’re going to have with the Golf Channel. I mean in some ways this is almost like having our own TV network, to a degree, and we’ll be able to promote and do things that we’ve never been able to do in the past. When you’re looking at tangible member benefits — and the PGA of America exists firsts and foremost for members — this really epitomizes something that is hugely important to our members.
I felt it was important to better understand the timing of the discussions and in the interest of the markets, to get to the bottom of sitting on this announcement so as to not take away from someone else's special week.
I was wondering if anybody can give us a little bit of an idea on when these discussions started. Also, I’m just wondering if there were any organizational practice issues related to sending on that announcement.
Pete Bevacqua: I can tell you that I started having conversations about the future of the Ryder Cup certainly internally with Ted and his fellow officers and our staff almost from the moment I started in November of 2012, and soon thereafter began to have those conversations with Jon Miller, who I said I’ve known for well over a decade.
NBC and the Golf Channel are such an obvious partners for the Ryder Cup. As Ted alluded to, the job that they’ve done for decades – it’s one of those situations that you’re always lucky when it’s just an astonishingly easy decision. Add all of the additional content, and the celebration of the PGA Professional primarily through the Golf Channel, it’s really what just made an easy decision even easier.
In terms of sitting on the news — as Ted mentioned — we felt like we had a deal roughly in principle on the evening of the (Bethpage) announcement. It was just what worked best for the PGA of America, certainly what worked best for NBC, and quite frankly what worked best in the overall golf environment.
One quick follow-up – what’s the status of the Friday coverage? Is that continuing on ESPN?
Mark Lazarus: ESPN sub-licenses that currently from NBC. We have some contractual obligations for discussions with them. We will honor those commitments and that’s a story still to be told.
ESPN's current deal ends after the 2014 Ryder Cup. Could Golf Channel or NBC Sports Network be in line to pick up Friday coverage, perhaps with some NBC thrown in too?
And it was all about the money, except it wasn't.
Pete Bevacqua: From PGA of America perspective, the Ryder Cup is one of the critical financial engines that helps the PGA of America, quite frankly, do everything we do for golf and for our members. So the financial elements of a financial broadcast deal are always super critical. But for us, every bit is important. And I think Mark’s thought was what we can do around the partnership with NBC and Golf Channel. When we start to talk about our strategic mission to serve our members and to grow the game, you don’t have to look further than the Golf Channel to understand that they really are that daily voice of golf in this country. The PGA of America needs to be tied into that voice in our opinion.
As for the seeming absurdity of tying the rights up until 2030 when Jordan Spieth will be 37...time for another shot! That's, a shot of hooch...
When you think about that, and what we can do with the NBC and the Golf Channel again on a consistent basis, it made this a pretty straight-forward process because we trust this partner. We have an unbelievable track record with them.
Knowing we can continue to work side-by-side with them through 2030 to continue to elevate the Ryder Cup, continue to elevate the PGA Senior Championship, and quite frankly the everyday role of the PGA of America – there’s just tremendous value in that, well beyond the dollars.
Well beyond the dollars. Precisely not the USGA's motto.