Multiple sources confirm ESPN is finalizing a trade with NBC to hand over day one rights for the 2014 Ryder Cup in exchange for improved rights access to Premier League highlights for shows such as Sportscenter.
Spokesman for ESPN, NBC and the PGA of America--which supervises U.S. television rights for the biennial matches--all declined to comment.
The two networks previously worked as trade partners in 2006, when ESPN picked up rights to the Friday Ryder Cup coverage, Olympics highlights and cartoon character "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" in exchange for broadcaster Al Michaels.
Though neither side would make executives available to discuss ongoing negotiations, the deal makes sense for NBC's recently-announced expansion of Ryder Cup coverage through 2030, while ESPN will no longer neglect the Premier League on its popular highlight shows. ESPN's coverage of the 2010 Ryder Cup was not well received after relentless commercial breaks included 18 showings of the same Lee Corso college football ad.
The 2014 Ryder Cup is the final year of ESPN's current arrangment with the PGA of America. The Disney-owned network still has rights to R&A events through 2017 along with the opening two days of the Masters and the final year of its USGA event coverage in 2014.
Sources believe NBC has not determined whether the Friday coverage will be placed on NBC, Golf Channel or NBC Sports Network, or some combination of the three Comcast-owned networks. NBC has broadcast the Ryder Cup since 1991.