The PGA Tour took its TV game up a notch last week with a windfall $850 million pact, a sign that the networks remain confident that professional golf will remain profitable as the cult of Tiger Woods continues to grow."It out-rates a lot of properties on the sports landscape," said Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports. "Hopefully, the advertising revenue will increase so that the PGA Tour will continue to be profitable on CBS."
It will have television networks paying what will be a 45% increase from the current $575 million deal.
CBS and ABC lead the broadcast and cable pack with 17 and 18 annual PGA events, respectively. ABC gained the L.A. Nissan Open in one of the few notable changes in scheduling. NBC is also a player with five events, along with ESPN, USA Networks and The Golf Channel, which are all part of the new deal that runs from 2003 through 2006.
CBS' optimism is fueled by the audience growth for golf among women, minorities and younger viewers. The age shift is, McManus noted, "most dramatic when Tiger is in contention. But," he added, "the demos for golf have always been of the highest quality."
The upscale, educated audience has drawn the attention of heavy-hitting advertisers in the automotive, financial services and telecommunications categories. Many of those sponsor events on the tour, so they're a ready source of ad revenue for the networks. Some ad-rate increases with major PGA advertisers are built into the packages the networks sell.
The NBA, the next major league to negotiate a new deal, faces a different situation because scheduling conflicts with other sports effectively eliminate CBS and Fox as potential professional-basketball bidders.
The NBA contract is up after next season, and there has been speculation that NBC could shave some points off its fee in light of steadily flagging NBA ratings.