Follow-Up On Reported Tour TV Deal

Lots to cover, and I know you've planned your day around my thoughts on the matter, so here goes. First, in case you missed it, here's the link to Stu Schneider's exclusive, with reporting from Rosaforte, Sirak and Hawkins.

Golf World has learned the tour will be traveling with one fewer passenger, as ABC Sports, which broadcast its last Monday Night Football game a week ago, has opted for a similar decision for golf, leaving it to CBS, NBC and ABC's cable partner, ESPN.

Just when someone was getting the hang of making televised golf entertaining again, they yank the A-Team. Hopefully Faldo, Azinger (it doesn't sound like it), Tirico, Rankin, North, Baker-Finch and Alliss will appear on ESPN with Loomis in the truck to beef up their dreary telecasts. But don't bet on it.

It is hard to imagine losing the network that covered the second most tour events this year (16). And ESPN still isn't the same as one of the big three networks, especially with its current production values. (I know, I know...the ESPN brand, the impactful marketing reach, they're a lifestyle, yada, etc, yada, etc.)

The one bit of good news about ABC bowing out? Maybe Faldo-Azinger-Tirico will not give a hoot this year and really have fun by saying what is truly on their minds.

While the length and value of the new deal are still being negotiated, two sources familiar with the talks told Golf World that one proposal on the table called for a six-year contract, instead of the traditional four-year deal. "It is one way for [Commissioner] Tim [Finchem] to get the kind of numbers he wants to announce," said one source involved in tournament management.

Tim, are we ripping a page from David Stern's Putting-Vanity-Before-Common-Sense: The Modern Approach to a Commissionership?

The source said the tour would likely reduce its subsidy of purses from 62 percent to "somewhere in the 50s," putting pressure on tournament directors to get that revenue from other areas.

Or, they could just reduce the purses by 12% since the big names have made it clear this week that tournament timing, the venue and of course, family, are all more important than the purse. Psychotic.

Schneider also reports that USA Network is out on weekdays, while ESPN, The Golf Channel and someone willing to fall for the "but our demographics are great" argument will take over. 

The Players will be moving to May while Doral, according to Golf World, will become the WGC-American Express Championship (Ford bowing out!?). This leaves Harding Park one less opportunity and may mean the International did not get its wish to become a WGC event.

"I knew a week ago that ABC was out," Paul Azinger told Golf World. "I'm highly disappointed, for a lot of people. Not for me, because I have a golf career. I'm disappointed for all the people behind the scenes that you're never going to see or hear of. I feel bad for [ABC golf producer] Mark Loomis, too. He took a big chance with Faldo and me, and it worked. Unfortunately, the network was unwilling to write the check."
Beyond 2006, the status of its golf production team, including veteran analysts such as Peter Alliss and Judy Rankin, is unclear. Azinger said he planned to return to competitive golf and play a full schedule in 2007, using his career money list exemption.

Sigh. And it gets worse. Looks like we'll be getting more of Roger Maltbie than we can stomach imagine.

NBC...will double its commitment starting in 2007, by adding two West Coast tournaments (believed to be Phoenix and the WGC-Accenture Match Play), and three of the four FedEx Cup events (Boston, Chicago and the series-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta; the fourth FedEx Cup stop, in Westchester, N.Y., returns to longtime home CBS). NBC also will keep the Florida swing and the last event before the Masters, which may be Houston in the new schedule, taking over from the BellSouth Classic near Atlanta, which will move to a post-Masters slot.

And this, which probably has several tournament directors losing sleep, just wondering if their event has been given a virtual-death sentence better known as a post FedEx Cup date:

The negotiations were ongoing throughout the last part of December and surprisingly remained as secret as Tiger Woods' cell phone number -- most of the players, tournament directors and sponsors are still not aware of all the details. In fact, some aspects of the contracts -- such as which events will make up the post Tour Championship part of the schedule and which networks will broadcast them -- are ongoing. 

The players don't know. Eh, why should they? It's only their tour. The commissioner works for them. Right?