The PGA Tour is set to take some media rights distribution in-house
International golf fans who relied on GolfTV to bring them PGA Tour action in recent years were given cause for concern when the brand was folded by Warner Bros. Discovery in late 2022. What would it mean for their PGA Tour consumption?
In short, the answer is … nothing. At least not for consumers. For WBD and various media partners, it means something slightly different.
The Tour has informed those media partners of a rejiggered agreement with WBD this week, which will maintain international Tour rights remain with WBD in most European markets and some in Latin America. Other markets like, for example, Asia, will see PGA Tour rights managed exclusively by the PGA Tour itself, eliminating any third parties to future agreements.
What remains now is largely what existed before 2019. For years the PGA Tour managed its rights deals on its own across the world. WBD, then just Discovery, stepped in to be the exclusive international distributor. The original agreement with WBD was to create “a world class, direct-to-consumer golf platform” in GolfTV, as the letter states. That included an outlet for all PGA Tour content, all the time.
GolfTV signed contracts with Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari for exclusive content to be housed on the platform, alongside instruction videos. The price for GolfTV was $9.99/month and the deal was announced at a length of 12 years with a valuation of $2 billion. But times were different then. That was pre-pandemic. It was pre-Woods’ car crash. It was before Discovery and WarnerMedia merged into a conglomerate.
Moving forward, the Tour will take back the management of some of its international rights, which always included WBD as one of those third parties. But again, for major European and Latin American markets, that means zero change at all. PGA Tour action will exist like it has for months (if not years) on Eurosport and Discovery+, a streaming platform that many international consumers already use to watch pro golf.
The merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery already paid dividends for some international viewers last month, where The Match VII — always broadcasted by WarnerMedia via TNT — was streamed via EuroSport and Discovery+ in December. Woods played alongside Rory McIlroy, losing to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. Discovery+, by comparison, is as little as half the price of GolfTV ($4.99/month with ads; $6.99 without).
“As consumer behavior changed, so did Warner Bros. Discovery’s own business,” a WBD statement said, “focusing more on scaled broad entertainment propositions rather than single sport or “view and do” products. In an evolving media landscape, we have found that including sport within a broader consumer offer provides greater value to subscribers and their wider household, as well as opening up sports to an even bigger audience.”
A fitting example of a market where this broadcast rights news matters most is Japan. The country is home to Hideki Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, where GolfTV has been the primary streaming service for PGA Tour fans these last few years. Those rights are now owned by streaming service U-Next and broadcaster Japanext.
The PGA Tour kicks off its 2023 calendar year this week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.