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Sports Media

Golf contracts are all lined up

Nine-year extension for networks, tour

TIM FINCHEM Calls deals “a home run’’ TIM FINCHEM
Calls deals “a home run’’
By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / September 2, 2011

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Consider this a bit of good news for those who enjoy watching golf on television: Your remote control isn’t going to have to do much searching for your favorite PGA Tour event, because the tour’s broadcast schedule is going to more or less remain as is for the next decade.

That relative status quo in programming and the comfort in the relationship between the PGA Tour and the networks are the chief conclusions drawn from yesterday’s announcement by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem that broadcast agreements have been reached with NBC and CBS that lock up the tour’s network television rights through 2021.

Finchem made the announcement at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton on a conference call with CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus and NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus that the tour has reached nine-year deals with the networks that begin at the end of the current agreements in 2012.

The new deals run through the 2021 season, which is also the end of the tour’s cable rights deal with the Golf Channel (which falls under the NBC Sports Group umbrella). That deal began in 2007 and runs for 15 years.

“Over the last five years, the quality of our television partners, CBS, NBC, and the Golf Channel, and their performance both in the quality of the product and their performance in the marketplace, has been a home run for our players, our tournaments, our sponsors, and our charities,’’ Finchem said. “So we are absolutely delighted to announce these new long-term agreements.’’

CBS will continue to air the same 20 tournaments it currently shows, with more than 130 hours of live weekend coverage per year. Events that will continue to air on CBS include the World Golf Championship/Bridgestone Invitational, the Wyndham Championship, and the Barclays.

“For over 50 years, golf has been part of our heritage,’’ McManus said. “We produce, I believe, it’s over 150 hours a year of golf programming, not just the PGA Tour, but of course the first major of the year, the Masters, and the last major of the year, the PGA Championship. Golf is really, really important to us.’’

NBC will televise approximately 10 events each season, with a projected 75 hours of live coverage, including the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship, and the Tour Championship.

Two WGC events - the Cadillac Championship and the Accenture Match Play Championship - will also air on NBC.

The Golf Channel, meanwhile, will air all four rounds of the season’s first three tournaments while also providing early-round coverage of tournaments that have their final two rounds on CBS and NBC.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but McManus and Lazarus both expressed confidence that the extension would prove valuable to their networks.

“I think I can say with some certainty that it’ll be profitable in each of the nine years,’’ Lazarus said.

Added McManus, “I would agree with that.’’

No matter what the official numbers, the commitment is of course a substantial one. Finchem, McManus, and Lazarus would be thrilled by a Tiger Woods resurgence and the ratings surge (as much as a 50 percent increase) that comes when he’s in weekend contention. But rather than speculating about Woods, Finchem emphasized the appeal of players such as Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley.

“It’s fair to say our fans have taken to the young players while remaining loyal to our established stars,’’ said Finchem. “In doing so, they have reinstilled confidence in our sport that might have been waning when our No. 1 player was not that active two of the last four years.

“But there is such tremendous buzz and focus on this juxtaposition of Tiger and Phil [Mickelson] and other mature players and veteran players against this huge increase in young players who are coming forward and able to win tournaments at every level.’’

Finchem suggested that increased rights fees would help the PGA Tour and its broadcast partners achieve another common goal: an increased digital presence.

While details about what content will be offered on the digital platforms are somewhat vague, NBC’s Lazarus said the priority is making it beneficial to the viewer while complementing the network coverage.

“If you look at the history of television and the history of sports, if you put quality product on the best screen available, people are going to migrate to it,’’ he said, agreeing with McManus’s sentiment that network television remains the bellwether of coverage. “We’re going to have the ability to feed that consumer’s appetite for a variety of those experiences wherever they are and however they’re best able to consume it and to give them a broad experience of the sport.’’

Royle treatment It was mentioned here last week that Jen Royle, the Mansfield native who currently covers the Ravens for 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore, was a candidate for an on-air role at NESN. According to industry sources, that’s not her only option in this market. Royle, who previously covered the Yankees for the YES Network and the Orioles for MASN, also had conversations with WEEI and has met with executives at 98.5 The Sports Hub, which, like 105.7 The Fan, is owned by CBS Radio . . . After last season’s hiccup, the Red Sox are charging toward October, and their victories are again translating to success in the Nielsen ratings for NESN. With Wednesday night’s 9-5 victory over the Yankees earning a season-high 15.2 household rating for the network, NESN is averaging a 7.9 through 124 games, up 26 percent from a year ago.

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.