Finchem Works Magic?

Ron Sirak breaks out his pom-poms and describes the new ABC/ESPN-free TV deal as "pure magic."

Now, before we look at this more closely, a reader emailed and asked when the last time was Sportscenter regularly showed Champions Tour highlights.

Bingo, you got it, back when it was called the Senior Tour and ESPN televised a whole bunch of it.

Anyway...Sirak cheers writes: 

Just when it seemed the financial sky was falling on his tour, Finchem reached into his top hat and pulled out a $3 billion rabbit, with CBS as one floppy ear, NBC as the other and Brian Roberts (pictured), CEO of Comcast, parent company of The Golf Channel, as the smiling face. This TV deal was pure magic, and it seems everyone won.

Everyone won. Pure magic. Who knew a PGA Tour press release could sound so modest? 

First, the package was more attractive to CBS and NBC with ABC out. Now only two networks will compete for the upscale advertising PGA Tour golf attracts. It would not be surprising if the tour deliberately axed ABC to boost the value to CBS and NBC.

Deliberately axed ABC? The great demographic argument gone so far awry, it's not even funny. 

Second, because Comcast was so eager. Sources tell Golf World TGC is paying a staggering $220 million a year for this "strategic partnership." How can Comcast cover $3.3 billion in rights fees over 15 years?

We are to believe sources claiming that Comcast will write checks totalling $3.3 billion over 15 years, on top of the huge production costs involved where they pay networks as much as $500,000 a week to cover Thurs-Friday telecast costs?

Brian Roberts is a very smart businessman who reports to shareholders. And we are to believe he is letting his company pay almost as much annually as the networks are currently paying in the 2000-06 deal, but in this case,  for the leftovers instead of the prime network events?

Or perhaps $3.3 billion is the potential value of the "strategic partnership," which sounds more like a deal that includes many elements beyond a simple rights fee payment. Maybe after the value of a small Tour ownership stake is computed, or after various hypotheticals are accounted for in best case ad revenue scenarios, or after they throw some more millions on top just to make it sound good, they reach $3.3 billion. 

Manougian, who declined comment on the financials, says the tour deal will take TGC from 70 million to 90 million homes. He also hopes that in areas such as New York -- where market penetration is currently only 50 to 60 percent -- that number will go up. Those increases are, as they say, priceless.

Of course, I forget, the world revolves around New York city. The coveted demo, the chosen people!

By the way, weather update: it was the coldest day this winter in L.A. Don't think it even hit 63. Burr!

Anyway, does Golf Channel actually appear in 70 million homes? Putting it another way, do 70 million homes pay for it? Or, does it currently have the potential to reach 70 million subscribers?

I think Frank Hannigan answered this in his Golfobserver column.

The Golf Channel euphoria expressed by Sirak and select others does not address the fact that ESPN and USA are available in most major hotels, bars, restaurants, health clubs, airports, etc... while the Golf Channel's presence in these visible locations ranges from non-existent to barely. And it's not the first channel that people usually go to (like ESPN).

Think about the number of times you will NOT see ESPN/USA's televised golf in a bar, lounge or a hotel room because it's now on The Golf Channel.

The long-term partnership with the tour also will give TGC unprecedented access to the players, allowing it the opportunity to provide unique and unprecedented programming. It is now truly the tour's network. Finchem hit a financial home run for his side. Now it's up to Manougian to hit a creative long ball for his team.

Now, I'm no ESPN fanatic. The Tour deserves major kudos for not caving to ESPN's demands for pairing-timing input. And as a fan of the The Golf Channel's pre and post round coverage, particularly during majors, they have the potential to be a much better place for serious golf fans. 

But how can anyone who has followed the Tour in recent years believe that they will help deliver "unique and "unprecedented programming"?