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?

Bonk on Ratings, Woods

Thomas Bonk's golf column, like a lot of other things in the L.A. Times' once meaty sports section, became a web exclusive this week. Besides a preview of Tiger's west coast schedule, Bonk offered this:

Ratings update: With Woods missing the cut, the overnight Nielsen rating for Sunday's final round of the Funai Classic on ABC was 1.4. Though that's still an increase over last year's 1.2 (when Woods wasn't entered), it still wasn't even close to NBC's "U.S. Open of Supercross," which had a 3.1 rating.


PGA Tour logo.jpgMike Bianchi looks at the PGA Tour's "NFL problem" and the future of the Funai classic.

"The reality is that we can't compete week in and week out with NFL football on Sunday or a big college football game on Saturday," admitted Tom Pernice Jr., who was atop the Funai leaderboard when the rains came Friday.

And to think, there was a time at the height of Tigermania when PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem actually predicted that golf would someday hold its own in a ratings battle with King Kong Football. Now, it appears, Finchem realizes the folly of such thinking and is ready to punt.

But is the NFL really the cause of the Tour's ratings problem? Bianchi:

Then again, doesn't every sport pale in comparison to the NFL? Even baseball plays its weekend World Series games at night so it doesn't have to compete with football. An argument could be made that every sport in this country -- except the NFL -- is a niche sport.

Of the possibility of a late season schedule demise, Bianchi writes:

If this happens, the future of late-season tournaments like the Funai is murky at best, miserable at worst. If the official tour season ends in September, the Funai could be relegated to second-class status and filled with no-names just trying to earn enough money to keep their tour cards.

It's interesting that there still has been no news of players seeing a proposed 2007 schedule (other than Finchem meeting with Tiger, Vijay and Phil).  Could it be that it's been determined for sometime and there is just a delay to build a consensus? Or a desire to spring this on the majority when it's too late to make significant changes?

The more I read of the NASCAR like finish, the more I wonder how the rank-and-file Tour player feels about a setup that will further separate 30 or so players from the rest. 

And as fans, why will that be interesting? Who cares about who gets the final few spots in the Tour Championship other than agents, accountants and immediate family members of players? 

CBS Extends PGA Championship Contract

pga_t1_logo.jpgAh the news we've all been waiting for:

"The PGA of America is excited to continue its relationship with CBS Sports by presenting the Season's Final Major to the American public," said Warren. "The PGA Championship has consistently featured the strongest field in major championship golf and has produced some of golf's most dramatic finishes and CBS Sports has been there to capture the drama and history of one of the greatest events in golf."

Season's Final Major capitalized? Maybe they should trademark that. But what happened to Last Shot at Glory or whatever it was they were calling it this year?

"CBS Sports has been a part of The PGA of America family for years," added Awtrey. "We are excited about extending this wonderful partnership and telling the PGA Championship story to golf and sports fans around the country."

Telling the PGA Championship story to golf?  And:

CBS Sports will produce five hours of high-definition coverage each of the final two rounds and will air a maximum of eight minutes of commercials per hour.

 Yes, eight minutes of commercials, 18 minutes of plugs and all leading nicely into reruns of 60 Minutes.

It's All About The Brand...

Larry Stewart in the LA Times talks to Mark Shapiro, ESPN's executive vice president of programming and production. Shapiro is leaving the network and is known to not be a big fan of golf. Tim Finchem probably won't be shedding many tears. But more importantly, the ESPN brand will be losing a dear friend in Shapiro:

"Yes, I have a great job. I love my job. I love my boss. I love my employees, I love the ESPN brand.

"I'm leaving for a bigger and better opportunity. We are trying to take over a theme-park company that is seriously underperforming.

"At ESPN, I was in the entertainment business. My aim was to raise ratings and strengthen the brand. At Six Flags, I'll be trying to improve attendance and strengthen the brand."