Zaslav On CNBC: "We're trying to create a golf Netflix"*

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Like many stories on Tiger’s new deal with Discovery and the PGA Tour, this interview Discovery CEO David Zaslav glosses over one key element of the Tiger Woods-is-coming-to-your-living room-next-year-narrative: he’s not, if you live in the United States. (At least not on Discovery’s GolfTV, he will be seen on PGA Tour Live, Golf Channel, NBC, CBS and TNT, among others).

Nor is Tiger going to be seen on American screens until 2022 at the earliest as part of this content play that more like the PGA Tour building its own network while wisely consolidating its international presentation, as something looking to satisfy viewers.

More interesting for those on the television side of this story is the increasingly debatable vision of a world where we all watch things on a phone. Zaslav emphasizes repeatedly in this interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box, even holding up his phone twice to highlight his predictable “Netflix” comparison.

Anyone who has watched golf on a phone can tell you that the viewing experience is generally limited since it is not shot for such devices nor can it ever be made compelling as a cell phone product give the length of a round. Then again, maybe this will finally encourage the PGA Tour to do something about slow play!

Conversely, on a large screen golf is brilliant, giving the sport an aesthetic advantage over others. Sponsors pay handsomely to be viewed in as many homes as possible and to have their logos seen as easily as possible, without being obtrusive. The phone push seems to conflict with the needs of sponsors.

Maybe they see a future without the sponsorship model, with golf tournaments bankrolled by streaming fees?

Anyway, check out the interview, if nothing else to hear one particularly incoherent question at the 3:50 mark or so from Andrew Ross Sorkin. The New York Times columnist appears to know no particulars of the Discovery-PGA Tour deal. Zaslav rides it out artfully. That’s why he gets the big bucks.

Here is the full chat with Zaslav:

Tiger appeared after with Zaslav joining the questioning and talked about getting to answer fan questions, including the ones he really wanted to answer after all of the dumb ones the media asks. Ok.

Tiger also speaks of getting to do content on his own terms and bringing “new youngness” to the game.

He also speaks about getting to make direct contact with his fans by putting instruction and content on phones and tablets. Yet again, no mention that this grow the game effort is only outside the United States for the next three years. Seems misleading. But maybe that’s the point?

Tiger Signs Exclusive Partnership With Discovery's GOLFTV

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Lots to chew on here with Tiger Woods signing a content deal with the PGA Tour’s oversees streaming distributor for exclusivity. Given how few homes will be seeing this channel the first few years, he’s signing up for a lot of work here with few eyeballs. But if the Discovery cash spends, then good for him.

Also noteworthy is the PGA Tour sending out this release and working in conjunction with Discovery to broker a deal with a player. Granted, it’s a legend of the game who is deservedly treated differently, but nonetheless intriguing.

For Immediate Release…

Tiger Woods and Discovery’s GOLFTV Announce 
Exclusive, Long-term Global Content Partnership

NEW YORK – In a major development as part of the strategic partnership between Discovery, Inc. and the PGA TOUR, GOLFTV today announced an exclusive multi-year global content partnership with 80-time PGA TOUR winner and 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods.

Starting in January 2019, GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR, the new global live and on-demand video streaming service jointly developed by Discovery and the TOUR, will collaborate with Woods on a wide range of programming, content creation and storytelling opportunities that will offer fans an authentic and regular look into the life, mind and performance of the game’s ultimate icon.

The GOLFTV partnership will reveal Woods as fans have never seen him before, providing an unparalleled opportunity to get close to Woods’ practice routines, preparation and life on the road through a variety of programming showcased exclusively on GOLFTV. 

At least, fans in other countries. Who like to stream golf coverage. Hope Turner isn’t handling the credit cards! Tiger’s quote is fun:

“I’ve been watching Discovery and David Zaslav build up a global sports platform with Eurosport, the Olympics and the launch of GOLFTV with us at the PGA TOUR, so I think they’re the perfect partner to help grow the game.

Grow the game drinking game success!

“They’re global, they get sports and know how to build new, younger and big audiences. 

It’s about the children!

“It’s a perfect fit and I’m so excited to be a real partner with the Discovery Sports team,” said Woods.  

“I love the vision of GOLFTV and the ambition for it to become the premier destination for golf entertainment worldwide. To have my own platform to communicate is the culmination of a lot of hard work from my team and the team at Discovery. 

Loooooong negotiation!

“We’re going to build content for everyone, whether you’ve been playing golf for a long time or just starting out. I’ll be sharing stories and giving insight into my approach that has never been seen before. This is such an exciting time for golf and for me, so to be part of the vision to grow the game all around the world is fantastic. I can’t wait to share my knowledge on GOLFTV,” he said.

And we can’t wait to hear what people say about it in Russia and Spain! Wait, there’s more. This must be a BIG check.

“I want to talk to golf fans and golfers everywhere, directly, and straight from me. That’s important to me. Talking about what we care about: what’s happening on the course, how to play better, how can I shoot lower scores tomorrow, how can I beat my friends?  David explained how GOLFTV is for the fans and the players, a single place they’ll all want to go, and he’s building something everyone will want,” Woods remarked.

Wow, so much. The fine print:

Among the plans, Woods and GOLFTV are collaborating to develop:

  • Weekly practice and instructional videos to improve your game;

  • Exclusive access into Tiger’s preparation routines;

  • Behind-the-scenes access before and after PGA TOUR rounds;

  • Unique and exclusive post-round commentary,

Another post round interview? Oh yeah, 8 figures!

“Getting the chance to do instruction is exciting.  I’ve always been focused on my own game and this experience can help players everywhere.  Whether you’re a long-time player or a beginner, there are some things that help us all play better.  It’s one way I want to give back to people who love the game like I do.  If I can help the next generation enjoy the game more and play better, that’s pretty special,” Woods concluded.

You know I’ve always thought when Tiger wakes up in the morning, he’s just dying to do instruction videos and not getting the chance!

A first for Woods on video, this content will be exclusively owned by GOLFTV globally, including in the United States, where Discovery has the opportunity to execute an owned or partner distribution strategy.

Interesting wording there.

David Zaslav, President and CEO, Discovery, said: “I am excited to welcome Tiger to the Discovery family and to GOLFTV, a true superstar joining our company of world-class storytellers and brands. At the heart of Discovery is high-quality storytelling, told through the most authentic, credible and trusted voices.  Tiger is the ultimate example of a world-class athlete and cultural figure with whom audiences are enamored, and follow closely around the world. Our global partnership with Tiger is a perfect example of our strategy to collaborate exclusively with top talent to extend global media platforms, and take advantage of our international distribution and technology infrastructure and aggregate audiences and build long-term value.

Whew covered all the key words. An activate would have been nice though.

“With Tiger joining us, I am confident that GOLFTV will be the new gold standard for comprehensive sports streaming, nourishing golf fans when and where they want to consume what they are most passionate about,” Zaslav added.

Nourishing?

This partnership with GOLFTV comes at an ideal time in Woods’ career, on the heels of a comeback season that saw him return to form in spectacular fashion, culminating in a history-making win at the 2018 TOUR Championship in September.

Alex Kaplan, President and General Manager, Discovery Golf, said: “It’s a privilege for us to welcome Tiger to the GOLFTV team. No one else in the game resonates globally the way Tiger does or has the global fan base, and he has great wisdom to share, on and off the course.  We’re thrilled to give him the global platform to do just that, and to provide our audience in more than 200 markets and territories a closer look at Tiger on the greens and behind the scenes.

“Our long-term partnership with Tiger reflects our broader ambition as we roll-out the service over the coming years, seeking to grow GOLFTV into a true ecosystem for all things golf: watching, learning and playing,” Kaplan added.

Ecosystem. Nice.

GOLFTV powered by PGA TOUR will be available to fans starting January 2019*. It will present more than 2,000 hours of live action each year as well as a wide range of premium content on-demand, featuring the sport’s most exciting moments, superstar players and tournaments on every screen and device. Live coverage of the PGA TOUR will be extensive and include THE PLAYERS Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup.

DISCOVERY SPORTS is the global leader in live sports with extensive brands and exclusive partnerships with premium sports and events including: Eurosport and the Eurosport Player, the Olympic Games, the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, La Vuelta a España, The Championships - Wimbledon, US Open, Roland Garros, Australian Open, ATP Tour, Bundesliga, English Premier League, UEFA Europa League, Eliteserien, PGA TOUR, Six Nations Rugby, FIS Ski World Championships, Moto GP and Formula E to name only a few. 

-ENDS-

*Excludes PGA TOUR rights in the United States.

**He’s really getting a lot of money for this.

Roundup: Before The Match's Aftermath Moves To The Finger-Pointing Phase

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Before the business story engulfs The Matchif the across-the-board refunds haven’t already done so—let’s consider how the promises of a groundbreaking event played out.

Alan Shipnuck at Golf.com says The Match was sold as a spectacle and merely delivered two guys playing golf, which was good enough for many of us to be entertained but a failure based on the marketing message.

It was an exercise in cognitive dissonance. The announcers wouldn’t stop raving about Shadow Creek’s aesthetics but my eyes kept going to the aeration holes on the greens. There was breathless talk about the use of the world’s largest drone for beauty shots but its buzzing was so loud it was a distraction on nearly every shot on the opening holes. I was excited to have the players mic’d up, until Phil’s heavy mouth-breathing and Tiger’s snotty sniffles hijacked the broadcast.

Dan Wetzel at Yahoo says The Match was worse than Caddyshack 2.

There were a few side bets that should have been fun, but this event was so over-marketed and over-sold that it was nearly impossible to believe either was laying their own money on the line. Someone else was going to pick up the closest-to-the-pin bets. On the back nine and the playoff – yes, it went 22 holes — no one bet anything. It was like they were over budget or all the other bets were pre-planned.

The Forecaddie on Turner taking the brunt of the financial losses, not the narrative they were hoping for or the one AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had in mind when they spent $85 billion on Time Warner.

Dave Shedloski at GolfDigest.com suggested the event went well, with the pay issues caused by overwhelming demand.

WarnerMedia’s B/R Live platform was so inundated with subscribers who waited until the last minute to log in that it had to offer the program free for a limited time until the traffic jam subsided. “We are very encouraged by the initial subscriber numbers,” a smiling Turner President David Levy said as Mickelson and Woods made the turn.

AP’s story on the streaming issues said 500 people were “on hold” at one point trying to get help paying. What that means isn’t clear.

But as Darren Rovell notes, all of those Turner meetings to determine the price for The Match were one giant waste of time after the mass-refund.

Jason Sobel lamented the flashing of cash and also the announce team talking over the sound.

The bigger problem is that the announcing team stepped all over the stars of the show throughout the day.

The whole benefit of Tiger and Phil being mic’d up is that we get to hear their conversations with each other, with their caddies and with the fans. Instead, it felt like every time they opened their mouths, one of the commentators would speak over them.

Rex Hoggard on the PGA Tour helping to undermine The Match by limiting the number of side challenges, which had moments and were for charity. Too many bad cooks in this kitchen!

The playoff hole took a few punches over at Golf.com where the Confidential gang saw plenty of positives too.

Berhow: The drone shots for some of the putts were pretty cool. The banter disappointed (shocker), and deciding this whole thing from a putting green (with teed up golf balls!) to a green just 93 yards away seemed very anticlimactic. Although maybe that ending was strangely fitting.

Kerr-Dineen: The much-hyped “trash talk” was painfully awkward and wholly underwhelming. I was a bit disappointed by the overall on-course commentary, too. It was a bit too straight-and-narrow for the event; I’d have liked to see Barkley more involved in the play-by-play. What was better than I expected? Probably the playoff. Wedging it off a green to another green with $9 million on the line? Bonkers.

Dan Kilbridge on the celebrity scene just outside the ropes. That continued Saturday with a pro-am where Tiger and Phil attended. Lucky them!

John Strege considered the telecast and noted that much of the great sound we heard was natural, inside-the-ropes commentary from the legends taking part.

When Woods chipped in for birdie from the fringe to square the match at 17, he could be heard saying to caddie Joe LaCava, “just like old times, Joey.”

Moments later, Mickelson said to Woods, “I’ve been watching that for 20 years. I didn’t need to watch that now.”

Yet even with a match coming down to the final hole and what evolved into a farcical playoff (teeing it from the putting green in the dark) with $9 million at stake, it was not especially riveting, given the mediocrity from two of the best in history and the time it took them to underperform.

Finally, Dan Kilbridge on the celebrity scene just outside the ropes. That continued Saturday with a pro-am where Tiger and Phil attended after the previous night’s Topgolf after party. Talk about evidence they were both paid the same rate!

Great Read: "How 'The Match' began—and where it might lead"

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Golf World’s Dave Shedloski takes a deep dive into The Match and how the Tiger-Phil event came together. You’ll have to wade through some self-congratulatory stuff and mentions of activations and next-generation deals, but it’s a great read for anyone interested in the anatomy of a deal.

There were also a few details that stood out worth commenting on. Starting with this on the rights fee, which would

No, this will be an intense competition between two rivals—the bitter kind for many years—who have forged a friendship, an alliance and a nameless joint-entity shell company into which cash already is flowing, thanks to the fee WarnerMedia’s Turner paid (much higher than the reported $10 million) for the rights to the more commercially catchy property known as “Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil.”

Much higher than $10 million in rights for one day. That’s giving new meaning to loss leader!

The origins of the event surprised me:

The concept for The Match began with a hypothetical question between two Hollywood friends, CAA’s Jack Whigham, the agency’s co-head of motion picture talent, and one of his clients, Bryan Zuriff, a producer whose credits include the film, “Jobs,” and the Showtime series “Ray Donovan.”

Zuriff, a golf enthusiast who was a huge fan of “The Skins Game” that used to occupy Thanksgiving weekend, is that creative type who has a million ideas running through his mind at all hours.

The story ultimately confirms the “franchise” concept in play.

All along the plan has been to create a franchise of high-stakes matches. So, too, is the aspect of players squaring off, said one source, “for a full PGA Tour purse in one-day events.” In other words, taking the tour’s concept of early-round featured pairings to a new level with an immediate payoff.

Woods and Mickelson would own such a series, which Loy said could include the two competing together as teammates. That would have the unmistakable feel of Challenge Golf, the 1960s TV series in which Arnold Palmer and Gary Player were the featured team against a collection of high-profile professionals. “We hope to see other players involved. You might see Phil and Tiger against players at the top of the world rankings, or two players from the same nation,” Loy said. “But, obviously, a lot depends on the pay-per-view numbers. We’re optimistic about it.”

Still comes down to the numbers.

Ernie Johnson Headlines TNT Broadcast Crew For The Match...

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Everyone loves Ernie…in studio.

However, as longtime PGA Championship watchers know, he’s not exactly a fan favorite when doing golf play-by-play. In his defense, most of Johnson golf work consisted of reading a relentless promo slate and sending us to commercials set against the horrid TNT golf theme as we watched the world’s best sweat through their shirts.

But The Match is a TNT show, so he’s the man. Hopefully the emphasis here will be on letting the players, caddies and officials who wear microphones to do most of the entertaining.

Oh and the pre-game show could set a new high for f-bombs in a 30-minute window.

For Immediate Release:

Turner Sports Announces Commentators for Live PPV Coverage of Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Philon Friday, Nov. 23, at 3 p.m. ET 

Sports Emmy Award Winner Ernie Johnson to Call Unprecedented PPV Match with Darren Clarke & Peter Jacobsen, Along with Reporters Natalie Gulbis & Shane Bacon 

Adam Lefkoe to Host The Pre-Match Show Presented by Capital One with Pat Perez, Samuel L. Jackson & Charles Barkley on Friday, Nov. 23, Beginning at 2 p.m. ET 

Turner Sports’ live PPV coverage of Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil, the highly-anticipated showdown between the iconic Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, will be led by Sports Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Ernie Johnson providing play-by-play, alongside analysts Darren Clarke – 2011 Open Championship winner –  and NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s Peter Jacobsen, and reporters Shane Bacon and LPGA veteran Natalie Gulbis.  The broadcast team will provide commentary throughout the winner-take-all $9 million match play competition, to be held Friday, Nov. 23, at Noon PT / 3 p.m. ET (suggested retail price of $19.99) from the exclusive Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. 

Additionally, Turner Sports will produce The Pre-Match Show Presented by Capital One – Friday, Nov. 23, at 2 p.m. ET –  offering fans a look inside the preparation of Woods and Mickelson immediately preceding the main event.  The pre-show coverage – including footage of Woods and Mickelson warming up on the putting green and driving range – will be a combination of sports and entertainment. 

Bleacher Report’s Adam Lefkoe will host the one-hour, pre-match show with three-time PGA Tour winner Pat Perez, along with Samuel L. Jackson and Charles Barkley, among other special guests.  The pre-show commentator team will also be integrated into the live event coverage at select moments during the competition.

Live coverage of Capital One’s The Match: Tiger vs. Phil will be distributed via PPV through Turner’s B/R Live (available now for purchase), AT&T’s DIRECTVand AT&T U-verse.  The PPV event will be distributed to other cable, satellite and telco operators including Comcast, Charter, Cox, Verizon and Altice in the U.S. and RogersShaw and Bell in Canada through In Demand and Vubiquity (an Amdocs Company). AT&T is the official 4K sponsor of The Match, which will also be broadcast in 4K High Dynamic Range (HDR) on DIRECTV channel 106 for $29.99*.  Turner International will facilitate the distribution of live PPV access outside the U.S. and Canada.

The Pre-Match Show Presented by Capital One will be available across all pay-per-view carrier platforms, along with wide-ranging distribution available for free to all fans via through simulcasts on the Bleacher Report and B/R Live Facebook (B/RB/R Live), Twitter (B/RB/R Live) and YouTube (B/RB/R Live) social platforms.

In addition to live pay-per-view event coverage, accompanying content distributed across wide-ranging Turner, WarnerMedia and AT&T platforms includes: 

  • HBO Sports and its groundbreaking 18-time Sports Emmy ® Award-winning 24/7 reality franchise, capturing all the excitement leading up to the match, which debuted Nov. 13 and is currently available via VOD, HBO GO and HBO NOW platforms;

  • Bleacher Report and its wildly-popular House of Highlights, which recently surpassed 10 million followers on Instagram, offering comprehensive highlights and behind-the-scenes content;

  • Turner’s TNT televising programming with select content from the event on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 5 p.m. ET.

Holly Sonders' Fox Sports Golf Career Ends

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The golf portion of her contract was not renewed and Holly Sonders is the latest to not make the FOX/USGA cut, reports The Forecaddie.

Unlike Greg Norman’s departure after just one year, I’m saddened that Holly didn’t find a spot on the FOX team given what she gave up at Golf Channel and how popular she was with viewers and those who’ve met her. Here’s hoping she gets back in golf soon.

SNF: Trackman Coming To (Sunday) NFL Kicks!

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Nice to see what most golfers have been wondering about: tracer technology and Trackman numbers on field goals with expansion plans as the season goes.

Best of all, the number we’ve always wanted to know will be shared: how far a kick would have flown had the net not stopped the ball.

SNF Kicks -- Using TrackMan Technology -- Maps Field Goal Attempts, Kick Trajectory, Football Speed & Projected Kick Distance  

STAMFORD, Conn. – October 25, 2018 –  NBC Sports this weekend will debut television’s first-ever field goal “tracer” on Sunday Night Football, as the New Orleans Saints (5-1) visit the Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1) in a meeting of first-place NFL teams, and a rematch of their memorable 2017 NFC Divisional Playoff. 

The new SNF Kicks Tracer – an element of SNF Kicks – can map the flight of the football on all field goal attempts. The SNF Kickstechnology will provide additional data including trajectory, speed of the football, and a “good from” statistic which indicates the furthest distance from which a made field goal attempt would have been successful. The SNF Kicks “good from” metric will be utilized for madefield goal attempts of 45-or-more yards, as this is the distance at which kickers typically put more power behind their kicks, making the maximum length measurement more applicable.

Using TrackMan technology – utilized and popularized in a longtime partnership with NBC Sports/Golf Channel golf coverage – SNF Kicks determines “good from” on field goal attempts by tracking the football from when it is kicked until the ball hits the net. The full flight measurement along with advanced modeling techniques determines the maximum distance the kick would have been good from, based on both distance and direction (any hook or slice). 

“As we continue to use the most cutting-edge technology to enhance our Sunday Night Football broadcast, we are excited to add the tracer to our coverage,” said Fred Gaudelli, executive producer of SNF. “With many games coming down to field goals, this new element will illustrate the flight of the football, while also providing many statistics pertinent to the kicking game. And field goals are only the beginning. By the end of the season, we hope to be showcasing the technology on kickoffs and punts, and eventually make our way to the passing game.” 

Azinger! NBC/Golf Channel Introduces New Analyst

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Paul Azinger hit the airwaves and the teleconference lines to discuss his new role as NBC’s lead golf analyst replacing Johnny Miller.

Here is the full release announcement from G.C. Digital.

Steve DiMeglio reports on Azinger’s excitement over getting to call Tiger Woods’ comeback.

The most interesting reveal of the day came on Morning Drive when Azinger confirmed what was long suspected: he lobbied for a Ryder Cup return gig after the victorious 2008 gig. Rex Hoggard reports for GolfChannel.com.

As The Forecaddie notes, there were a few surprises in the volume of events and other non-tournament moments the 1993 PGA Champion will work.

Azinger at the table with Gary and Damon on Morning Drive today:

"GOLFTV Powered By The PGA Tour" Is Launched For Eight Countries

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The PGA Tour and Discovery have partnered for all international streaming coverage but due to existing deals, it’s going to be a five year rollout of the newly branded GOLFTV Powered By The PGA Tour. The UK and Sweden, for instance, won’t be able to live under par until 2022 (see other rollout dates above).

The press release is heavy on self congratulatory praise for the “distinctive” brand, but without any mention of star talent signed to helm the coverage or a compelling story to share with all but eight countries. Golf having its Netflix, as the cable cutters hoped, seems a long ways off still. At least to Americans.

NEW YORK - Discovery and the PGA TOUR have today revealed GOLFTV, powered by the PGA TOUR, the distinctive brand for the destination that will unite the community of golf fans around the world.  The brand will underpin the new live and on-demand international video streaming service, which will launch globally outside the United States* on Jan. 1, 2019.

GOLFTV will offer fans a one-stop destination to access the widest range of golf content.  With a growing portfolio of content, it will feature many of the sport’s most exciting moments, superstar players and tournaments on every screen and device.

Serving golf fans with an enhanced experience to both entertain and inform, GOLFTV will present more than 2,000 hours of live action each year as well as extensive premium content on-demand.   Live coverage* will include the six Tours operating under the PGA TOUR umbrella and nearly 150 tournaments annually - including THE PLAYERS Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup.

Alex Kaplan, President and General Manager, Discovery Golf, said: “Our long-term goal is to create a must-have experience that truly enhances the way global fans watch, play and engage with the game every day.  Unveiling the new GOLFTV brand is an exciting next step in our journey.

“Building on Discovery’s heritage of real-life storytelling and direct-to-consumer platform experience, we’ve already established a world-class GOLFTV team.  With work well underway, our carefully considered plans will allow us to continually enhance GOLFTV as we roll-out and further develop the product.”

The launch of the GOLFTV brand follows the pioneering strategic alliance between Discovery and the PGA TOUR, announced in June.  In addition to the GOLFTV service, the 12-year alliance will manage the PGA TOUR’s international multi-platform rights including linear TV rights.

Discovery is already working to execute on a robust distribution and broadcast partner strategy for the portfolio, optimizing reach across free-to-air, pay-TV and digital, and will explore partnering with existing PGA TOUR and golf broadcasters to continue to grow the game.  Live PGA TOUR coverage will become available via GOLFTV in line with the market-by-market rights activation date (see below).

Johnny "Could make golf more fun to hear than to watch"

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Great stuff from AP’s Doug Ferguson on the retirement of Johnny Miller, including this gem on Craig Parry that lit up the switchboards.

''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

Except that wasn't the last word.

''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

Jaime Diaz looks back on Miller’s career in this Golf Central essay:

Miller joined Golf Central Wednesday to discuss his impending farewell at the 2019 Waste Management Open:

On Golf Central we debated his greatest legacy: player or broadcaster. I said player. Matt Adams said broadcaster. You decide!

Johnny Miller Really Is Retiring To Spend More Time With His Family

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I’m getting weepy just thinking how weepy Johnny Miller will be at the 2019 Waste Management Open when he hangs up his IFB, questions his last club selection and takes his well, well, well earned retirement to really, truly genuinely spend more time with his family.

From G.C. Digital’s item and Golf Central where Miller will be talking more extensively on Tuesday’s show about his plans after nearly 30 incredible years as the most concise, prepared and opinionated analyst golf television has known.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Johnny To Retire, Azinger To Replace While Still Working For Fox

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The Forecaddie with fantastic news for golf fans grappling with the thought of Johnny Miller retiring and no standout, no-brainer replacements.

Except one.

Will we get a Paul Azinger-Tirico-Faldo cameo of their old ESPN days on some weekday telecast on Golf Channel (Faldo can’t work on NBC, I don’t believe)? Maybe at The Open?

Brilliant Move Or Fox Redux? Sorting Out PGA Of America's New TV Deal

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I had trouble not recalling the many apparent similarities with the USGA and Fox TV deal in reading today’s rollout of the PGA Championship’s CBS renewal/ESPN television deal.

There is the 11-year deal term, which remains confounding on so many levels given how much more lazily entities perform when not incentivized by an expiring contract.

There is the PGA of America turning to an organization—ESPN—that had all but given up doing golf except for the Masters rights, earned as much through their reach as their devotion to golf.

There is ESPN primarily looking to lock up new content deals to fuel a new product. In the PGA’s case it’s ESPN+ coverage. For Fox with the USGA, it was Fox Sports 1.

There are the usual proclamations of getting special attention to under-covered events like the PGA Junior League which, as we saw with the USGA-Fox deal now just doing 8 of 13 USGA events with no front or back end coverage, fizzled out as the cost and rating realities led to altered intentions.

There are the usual vapid statements about better opportunities to grow the game, etc. The USGA and Fox promised unprecedented opportunities to raise the USGA’s profile for the betterment of the game. The USGA has never been more anonymous or underserved.

And then there is the PGA price tag: a rise from around $22 million annually for the PGA Championship to $70 million according to multiple sources who I spoke to after the deal was announced. Furthermore, CBS has insisted that ESPN pay a higher share of the rights fee, an amazing thing given that CBS gets the prime weekend coverage. So let’s use basic logic and assume ESPN is paying $40 million or so annually to CBS’s $30 million.

So far, not a word has been uttered about how the extra cash in the coffers will benefit the PGA of America membership, nor was there any mention of reducing the horrible commercial and promo overload that has made the PGA Championship golf’s least appealing major on television.

Also intriguing to see will be how deep into the night both networks go for the PGA’s two West Coast playings during the 11 years. Will 60 Minutes have to wait on golf? Will NBA playoffs move to ESPN2?

John Ourand and John Lombardo report for Sports Business Daily on the deal’s known details and players, with the emphasis on ESPN+ and the PGA Championship as a key part of building the budding streaming service.

But ESPN also is looking for content to convince people to subscribe to its ESPN+ streaming service. “We’re building a new business in ESPN+. It was ideal for us to have a golf major available for acquisition.” Starting with the ’20 event at Harding Park in S.F., CBS and ESPN will have wall-to-wall coverage (more than 175 hours) during the tournament. CBS will carry weekend afternoon coverage, while ESPN and ESPN+ will carry the Thursday and Friday rounds exclusively. It also will carry weekend rounds before CBS goes on air. Interestingly, while CBS is on air on the weekend, ESPN+ will have live coverage from featured holes and featured groups.

Amazing to think that for 11 years, CBS will yield to ESPN on those digital fronts. Anyway…

There was also this:

ESPN+ also will carry practice rounds before the tournament, press conferences and driving range interviews. ESPN will produce “SportsCenter” from the event. Other aspects of the deal: ESPN will carry the PGA Jr. League Championship starting in Oct. ’20. “That could become a different version of the Little League World Series,” Waugh said.

It could. And probably won’t.

Where this deal could differ from USGA/Fox is in the partnerships: CBS loves golf and has been devoted to covering the game a long time, including the PGA Championship since 1991. The last year saw major technological enhancements to the PGA broadcast. Finally.

ESPN, while clearly stockpiling content ala Fox and FS1, has at times shown great interest in golf and as with its involvement in tennis, figures to go all in to make this work. Many of their top Sportscenter anchors love the game and as Mike McQuade and Rob King’s roles at the network increased, golf coverage has expanded.

Still, eleven years is plenty of time to lose interest and to have little incentive to invest, especially if the parent companies deem the deal a loss leader. Even as Fox has settled into their role handling the USGA events and innovated, the network broke away from live US Amateur golf at Pebble Beach this summer to show golf documentary reruns, presumably because a corporate beancounter wasn’t about to cover overtime pay.

So while danger signs exist for similar headaches that annoy viewers, the PGA of America has diversified their partnerships to now include CBS, ESPN, NBC (Ryder Cup, KPMG LPGA, Senior PGA) and Golf Channel (Ryder Cup, KPMG LPGA, Senior PGA). One hopes they negotiated more outs and opportunities to refine broadcast details in response to changing times or changing corporate cultures.

The next priority for the PGA? Figure out how to take their riches and somehow restore the golf professional to a higher place in the game.

Full CBS press release.

Full ESPN press release.

Full PGA of America press release.

More Tiger Impact: Golf Channel Posts Best Third Quarter Ever

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More fruit baskets will be piling up on Tiger’s front door step after this from Golf Channel PR:

MOST-WATCHED, MOST-STREAMED, MOST-ENGAGED THIRD QUARTER EVER

·       Golf Channel posted its most-watched third quarter ever (126,000, P2+) across a 24-hour period, up 9% vs. 2017 (116k).

·       September was Golf Channel’s most-watched September ever (132k), up 33% vs. 2017, and becomes the third month this year to set a most-watched milestone (January and March).

·       Golf Digital’s most-streamed quarter ever with 342 million minutes streamed, up 72% vs. 2017.

·       Golf Digital’s record-setting pace in 2018 includes video starts already setting its most-engaged year ever with 53.4 million starts with the full fourth quarter still remaining.

“Golf’s third quarter benefitted from NBCUniversal’s expertise in promoting, producing and partnering with some of golf’s biggest events and the return of the sport’s biggest star. Golf Channel is now on record pace for its best year ever,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports. “This momentum continues as we chronicle Tiger Woods’ comeback in a unique situation where he’s competing against a generation of athletes he inspired, across an improved 2019 schedule featuring marquee events from March through August.”

 

ADDITIONAL YEAR-TO-DATE HIGHLIGHTS IN 2018 INCLUDE:

·       With nearly 3,450 live hours programmed in 2018, Golf Channel has its most live hours ever programmed, up 107% vs. 2010, the year prior to Golf Channel becoming a part of the NBC Sports Group.

·       NBC Sports’ PGA TOUR live coverage has averaged 3.7 million viewers in 2018, up 60% vs. 2017, and making it NBC’s most-watched PGA TOUR season since 2006.

·       Golf Channel’s PGA TOUR live coverage has averaged 523k viewers for the 2017-2018 season, up 29% vs. the 2016-2017 season and Golf Channel’s most-watched PGA TOUR season since the wrap-around season began in fall, 2012.

 

THIRD QUARTER EVENTS DRIVING RECORD VIEWERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT:

·       Ryder Cup: Up vs. 2014:

o   NBC Sports’ live television coverage of the Ryder Cup drew nearly 19.3 million unique viewers, up 8% vs. 2014, the last time Europe hosted the event.

o   Across Golf Channel and NBC, Total Audience Delivery (TAD) was up all three days vs. 2014.

·       PGA TOUR FedExCup Playoffs: Best Ever In Playoff History:

o   NBC Sports’ live television coverage of all four FedExCup Playoff events was most-viewed since 2007, drawing 32.6 million unique viewers, up 44% vs. 2017.

o   The last three weekends’ TAD Delivery of 3.33 million average viewers on NBC, up 55% vs. 2017, and early round coverage at all four events TAD was 863k average viewers on Golf Channel, up 40% vs. 2017.

·       The 147TH Open: Largest Total Audience in Five Years:

o   NBC Sports’ live television coverage drew 26 million unique viewers, most for The Open since 2013, and up 19% vs. 2017.

o   Across all four days, digital streaming garnered 125 million minutes, up 24% vs. 2017, and making The 147th Open the most-streamed golf event ever for NBC Sports.

o   Viewership across The R&A’s three major championships, The Open, Senior Open and Women’s British Open, was the most-watched since 2009 (TNT/ABC), and up 24%, vs. 2017

5.1: Tiger Delivers 206% Increase In Tour Championship Final Round Rating

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Big numbers!

For Immediate Release:

TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL ROUND BECOMES HIGHEST-RATED FEDEXCUP

PLAYOFFS TELECAST EVER AS TIGER WOODS WINS FOR FIRST TIME IN FIVE YEARS

5.21 Overnight Rating Becomes Highest-Rated PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018 

18.4 Million Minutes Streamed on Sunday (+561% YoY); Most-Streamed

NBC Sports Sunday Golf Round Ever (Excluding Majors) 

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 24, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:15 p.m. ET) earned a 5.21 Overnight rating, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast is up 206% vs. 2017 (1.70).  It also becomes the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-’18) and the highest-rated PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excluding majors). Coverage peaked from 5:30-6p (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion, only trailing the peaks for The Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 p.m. ET) posted at 4.35 Overnight rating, which is the highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (2000-’18)

“Tiger Woods’ win at the TOUR Championship was an unforgettable event in golf,” said Mike McCarley, President, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “The massive gallery following Tiger up the 18th fairway was matched by record viewership across NBC Sports’ platforms. Golf is experiencing a surge in momentum with Tiger and the young stars of the Tiger-inspired generation atop leaderboards. We look forward to this momentum continuing this week at the Ryder Cup.”

Sunday’s Final Round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports’ Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (Noon-1:30p) also earned a .74 Overnight rating to become the highest Sunday lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-’18).

Golf Players Poll: Brandel Up, Trump Down, Tour Setups About Right, A Third Concerned About Distance

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The old SI and now all-Golf Magazine/Golf.com players poll is great fun as always, with bad news for President Donald Trump, good news for Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee and a host of other fun topics covered.

But since this blog leans toward course setup, architecture, history and distance debates, the obvious questions of note for yours truly:

ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT TOUR PLAYERS ARE HITTING THE BALL TOO FAR?

YES: 32%
NO: 76%

“I just wish I hit it farther.”
“Equipment has taken a ton of skill away from the game.”
“The problem is that the ball goes too straight.”
“Yes — 300 yards doesn’t cut it anymore.”

32% is a steady number given that 100% believe they are paid to say all distance, some manufacturers are actively pressuring players to preach distance and the PGA Tour and PGA of America leadership believes more distance will grow the game.

Three years ago, the number was at 29%, so the slight increase is amazing given the pressures exerted on players to brag about that athleticism and declare the joys of modern technology advances.

As for bifurcation:

SHOULD THERE BE TWO SETS OF EQUIPMENT REGS: ONE FOR PROS, ANOTHER FOR EVERYONE ELSE?

YES: 39%
NO: 61%

“It would ruin the golf industry.”

Amazing to think the golf industry is seen as dependent on what the players play, not on how much people are enjoying the sport or buying equipment based on need or design intrigue or something other than pro golfers.

This one is a huge win for the PGA Tour Rules referees. Huge!

TOUR SETUPS ARE GENERALLY…

…TOO SHORT: 0%
…TOO LONG: 7%
…ABOUT RIGHT: 93%

“Tour setups are typically, well, too lame.”
“Fact: No one bitches when they’re leading the tournament.”

That 44% thought Phil should have been DQ’d does not suggest much admiration from the PGA Tour set for the USGA rules committee.

SHOULD PHIL HAVE BEEN DQ’D AT SHINNECOCK?

YES: 44%
NO: 54%
NO COMMENT: 2%

“He acted like an idiot. If it were me, I’d be out.”
“He should’ve been praised.”

NBC To Broadcast Augusta National Women's Amateur, Logo And Ticket Applications Unveiled

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Augusta National has announced the broadcast partner—NBC Sports—and other details for the first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur, including its very own acronym!

There is a lot to consider in this announcement and surprise choice to have NBC broadcast, but for now…

AUGUSTA NATIONAL WOMEN’S AMATEUR NAMES NBC SPORTS AS BROADCAST PARTNER 

Five Presenting Partners Join Augusta National in Support of Women’s Golf; Ticket Applications Now Available 

AUGUSTA, Ga. – In less than seven months, golf’s best women amateurs will compete in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA). Today, it was announced that NBC Sports will produce and broadcast three hours of live final-round coverage of the event, which is being supported by five presenting partners: AT&T, Bank of America, IBM, Mercedes-Benz and Rolex. In addition, ticket applications are now available for those interested in attending any of the championship via www.ANWAgolf.com. 

“Since the announcement of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April, we have remained determined to organize a competition that will provide a meaningful impact on the development of the women’s game,” said Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament. “While we aim to stage a first-class championship, our motivation goes beyond the scores posted between the ropes. By providing this opportunity and shining a brighter light on this important segment of the sport, we expect role models to emerge who will help inspire a new generation of golfers.” 

Gathering the week before the Masters Tournament next April, the international field of 72 players will compete over 54 holes of stroke play, with a cut taking place after 36 holes. The first two rounds will take place on the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat Golf Club Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4. The entire field will then play Augusta National for an official practice round Friday, April 5. The final round will take place at Augusta National on Saturday, April 6 and will feature the top 30 competitors who made the cut. 

NBC Sports will provide pre-event promotion across NBCUniversal’s portfolio and live coverage of the ANWA across its television and digital platforms, including live final-round coverage on NBC at Augusta National from Noon – 3 pm EST. Golf Channel will deliver highlights, live reports and news coverage throughout the event, including onsite during the first two competitive rounds at Champions Retreat. Additionally, Golf Channel’s “Live From the Masters” will commence on Friday, April 5 from Augusta National and wrap ANWA coverage on Saturday, April 6 and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on Sunday, April 7. 

Golf fans wishing to attend any of next year’s competition rounds can now request a ticket application via www.ANWAgolf.com, the event’s official website. Tickets will be sold in advance, but only after receipt of an online application. Applications will be accepted through September 30. All applicants will be notified in late October when the selection process is complete. 

Based on the qualifications for the ANWA published in April, the following players are currently eligible for invitation: 

♦ Kristen Gillman (USA), U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion 

♦ Leonie Harm (Germany), Ladies’ British Open Amateur Champion 

♦ Atthaya Thitikul (Thailand), Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Champion 

♦ Yealimi Noh (USA), U.S. Girls’ Junior Champion and Girls Junior PGA Champion 

♦ Emma Spitz (Austria), Girls’ British Open Amateur Champion 

The following criteria will fill the next 60 positions in the field, based on the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the end of the 2018 calendar year: 

♦ The top 30 players from the United States of America not otherwise qualified 

♦ The next 30 highest ranked players not otherwise qualified 

The field’s remaining spots will be filled by special invitation from the ANWA Championship Committee. 

Golden State National: Is This A Bad Time To Mention That We Need More Golf Tournaments In California?

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Let's establish three very simple facts:

--Rain rarely occurs in California from May through October.

--When a golf tournament is played in California, it finishes in prime time for more than half the country and garners a much bigger rating, no matter who is contending

--Golf is played outdoors. It is much better when rain does not interfere with the proceedings.

Ok, technically I've presented four simple facts.

As we were reminded again last week after what has actually been a good-weather season in golf, the sport features many overpaid individuals who continue to sign up their major events on the east coast at times of year when rain can (will) be an issue. The PGA Tour set its playoffs for midwest and northeast venues, with a finish in Atlanta at a boring culmination architecturally that will be even less glamorous in 2019.

(In his defense, Commissioner Moonbeam was said to have been trying for at least one major west coast market in his original playoff plans, but players complained about travel issues and the PGA Tour could not find a sponsor/venue fit out west.)

As you know, ratings have never been very good for the FedExCup Playoffs. The list of reasons is long, from a confusing and unsatisfying format, to the time of year and the time zone of the venues, to overall golf fatigue once the majors have been played. The numbers may not improve next year when the playoffs are contested by late August, soon after the major season has ended and at more eastern venues. 

Meanwhile, the PGA Championship moves to May 2019 and while this meant the PGA of America could open up new regions like Florida or Arizona, they've got mostly a who's-who of venues similar to those they've always gone to--Kiawah, Valhalla, Quail Hollow, Baltusrol, Southern Hills, etc...), with just two California stops scheduled through 2030--Harding Park in 2020 and Olympic Club in 2028. Weather could be an issue for most of the future PGA venues, particularly the New York area stops at Bethpage, Trump Bedminster and Oak Hill. 

So if you like the permutations of weather-delayed event planning, then check out Nick Menta's GolfChannel.com story on the many possibilities for the 2018 BMW Championship as play spills into Monday.

But if you are a dreamer, consider Golden State National. 

It's an as-yet unbuilt (or not-yet-remodeled) facility somewhere south of San Francisco and featuring 36-holes of golf, enough hotel rooms within 45 minutes to support the traveling golf circus, a luxury hotel on property for not-important VIP's, a G5-friendly landing strip, and of course, at least 8,500 yards of golf to deal with the distance explosion.

More vitally, Golden State National can host major events from March to November, deliver ratings and finish on Sundays. The ground will be firm. Fans will enjoy themselves. Television executives won't have digestive issues.

But here's the catch: to build or remodel an existing facility into GSN, it costs money. A lot of money when you have to build a course for the modern game where 250 acres is the new 150, meaning we need 500 acres potentially.

The non-profits of golf, devoted to funneling every penny possible to charity--ok, that's slightly sarcastic--have resisted even considering such a facility due to a lack of vision or a lack of funds, even though GSN could also host some NCAA Championships, LPGA majors and other special events. And hackers the rest of the year eager to pay $250 to play where the pros play. 

It'll probably take about $150 million to pull off the facility from scratch, maybe less if we can find a lesser property where dynamite and architectural ingenuity will be the greatest expenses and a local airport handles the Wheels Up crowd. I can think of two San Diego area properties that fit such a bill, and that's just off the top of my head. 

So how do we go about raising the funds for Golden State National since golf's Five Families resist the desire, vision or courage of convictions to do what is right? Which is, to create a facility dedicated to the modern game, modern weather, and modern sports audience? 

Kickstarter anyone?

What To Make Of The Mixed PGA Tour Playoff Ratings News?

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Maybe the numbers do not matter with the PGA Tour Playoffs(C) moving to a late-August finish in 2019. Or perhaps a couple of golf-loving Nielsen viewers took the family to the Catskills Northern Trust Open weekend. 

Either way, with Tiger Woods lingering around and getting lots of coverage, the Northern Trust saw a drop in ratings while Labor Day's final Dell Technologies saw a nice boost from Woods. 

From Paulsen at Sports Media Watch:

Final round coverage of the PGA Tour Northern Trust, the first event of the PGA Tour playoffs, earned a 1.9 rating and 2.75 million viewers on CBS Sunday — down 10% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year (2.1, 3.14M) but up a tick and 5% respectively from 2016 (1.8, 2.63M).

The news was better for Monday's final round at the TPC Boston, where a 2.1 rating was up 8% from 2017 on Tiger's back. The Monday coverage also faced little competition, again making it an attractive coverage day for some other tour to jump on now that the PGA Tour is abandoning Labor Day Monday's going forward. 

Paulsen also updates his Woods Effect numbers from the season with the Northern Trust being just the second tournament to not see an increase. Lead-in numbers are included for Golf Channel and those are also huge, with the 1.34 million average audience for Sunday's coverage. 

Johnny: 50 Years On The Road May Be Enough

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Sounds like Johnny Miller is about ready to hang up his IFB even though he's still the one-and-only-Johnny.

From Doug Ferguson's AP notes column:

“It’s been 50 years on the road, and part of me is saying, ’That’s enough,’” Miller said Tuesday to promote the Safeway Open in Napa, California. “I haven’t gotten to that point yet. They’re still trying to convince me to keep going. So we’ll see. I usually listen to my gut, so to speak, and my wife. Right now, I am planning on scaling down even more. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I will say, ‘Hey, one more year.’”