Thursday Morning Quarterbacking

Thanks to reader John for Joe Flint's Wall Street Journal story on the new Tour TV deal.

The PGA Tour has an affluent audience, but in other ways limited leverage. Even though marquee-name Tiger Woods rebounded last year, ratings for the PGA Tour have diminished somewhat over the past few years. Moreover, once ESPN signed a rights deal for Nascar auto racing, its desire to keep the PGA Tour lessened, people close to the network said.

"They're going through a marketplace adjustment," sports-television consultant Neal Pilson said of the PGA Tour's new deal. "The fact that ABC and ESPN had withdrawn was a significant signal that it is a much more difficult marketplace today than it was five or 10 years ago," he added.

"Under the prior deal, you had several different major carriers offering packages that allowed sponsors to play the networks against each other," Mr. Pilson said.

But I thought this network streamlining was a good thing...

Thomas Bonk reports on the Hope moving to cable as part of a three event, Golf Channel-broadcast start to the season (described by one TGC reporter and Mark Rolfing last night as a "big bang" to start the season...uh, maybe for the The Golf Channel but not the Tour.).

Bonk says Milwaukee and Tucson are done as events, and that Chrysler is iffy for future Hope sponsorships.

If Tucson does become the WGC match play site, that means the three remaining WGC events will be anchored in the U.S.  So much for moving those around the world. So much for the WGC.

Scott Michaux's column wins for best lead of the day.

The PGA Tour has "streamlined" its television partners and tethered itself to cable, but the "continuity" of the commissioner's Masters envy remains intact.

He goes on to weigh the pluses and minuses and is spot on. Though I think he's a little hard on Kraig Kann, who has improved significantly and exudes enthusiasm without being overbearing.

Michaux remains skeptical that the notoriously frugal Golf Channel will upgrade its production values. He probably would not feel reassured if he read Richard Sandomir of the New York Times, who offered this from TGC's David Manougian:

"The reality series show that we understand the emotions connected to the game of golf and that there are lots of ways to portray golf entertainment," said David Manougian, the president of the Golf Channel. "We'll continue to push that throttle."

Steve Elling weighs in with the Orlando angle, which is significant. He also had this tidbit regarding the negotiations:

John Wildhack, senior vice president of programming and acquisitions at ESPN and ABC, said talks with the tour broke down in late December when it became apparent that Disney would continue to lose money under the new contract terms. All the networks claim they lost money on the current contract, which ends after the '06 season. Wildhack said golf's TV viewership has suffered significant "erosion'' in that time, a fact borne out by the ratings.

Huh, but the demographics are so...ah forget it. As for the Disney event in Orlando:

Disney World learned the parent company effectively was bailing from golf broadcasting Tuesday night, when tournament officials received a memo informing them the event no longer would be broadcast in-house on ABC or ESPN. Disney tournament officials are scheduled to meet with the tour Friday to learn where they fit on the schedule.

But if the parent company doesn't want to televise golf, why host an event where you have to spend a bunch of money updating the course every few years, all for something that will be on The Golf Channel and minus big name players?