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PGA Tour, Twitter Ink Live-Streaming Deal for Early-Round Coverage

January 5, 2017

The way you watch competitive golf is about to change.

The PGA Tour announced a deal with Twitter on Thursday that will allow the social media giant to live stream more than 70 hours of coverage from 31 tournaments throughout the 2016-17 season free of charge for fans all over the world.

Starting at the CareerBuilder Challenge on Jan. 19 and concluding at the Tour Championship in September, Twitter will stream the first 60 to 90 minutes of the early morning Thursday and Friday coverage from PGA Tour Live’s subscription broadcast service via PGATourLive.twitter.com and @PGATour.

“The PGA TOUR continues to transform the experience for fans on Twitter, a place where golf conversation is happening live in real time every day,” said Anthony Noto, COO at Twitter, in a statement. “Our collaboration with the PGA TOUR will provide fans all over the world access to watch live streaming PGA TOUR events on Twitter while following the conversation all on one screen.”

In addition to working together through Twitter’s “Amplify” program, in which Twitter promotes non-live video content (such as highlights) distributed through the Tour’s Twitter account, the Tour had previously partnered with Twitter to offer streaming coverage of the early rounds of the first two stops on the 2016 FedExCup Playoffs. According to a press release, it’s based on that “successful live streaming collaboration” that the two sides decided to significantly expand the partnership.

The deal includes “opportunities for advertisers,” but when reached for comment, a spokesperson for Twitter declined to discuss the specifics of how the deal was structured, so it’s unclear whether Twitter paid for the broadcasting rights or negotiated a revenue sharing agreement. The Tour did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s likely, however, that combining live video with live conversation is a key part of Twitter’s long-term strategy for building a revenue stream around the rising generation of “cord cutters” that have cancelled their subscriptions to traditional television services. Twitter has made a big push into live sports in recent months, having secured live-streaming deals with all four major leagues — the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL — as well as a host of other sports conferences, networks and events.

The PGA Tour, meanwhile, has signaled that more changes could be on the way, and the success or failure of this social media experiment could determine how drastic they are. The Tour’s current broadcasting deals with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel run through 2021, though the Tour could opt out of the first two as early as 2018. While new Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said those partnerships were “working very well,” he stressed that innovation would be the key to success in an uncertain future.

“What we think of [the media] world today, mobile and digital and now 80 percent of our fans are consuming their content via mobile, that will look very different in a year or two from now,” Monahan told PGATOUR.com. “Having the ability to adapt and being flexible about content and rights is something that is and will continue to be very important for us and our media partners.”

It’s up to the Tour whether that future includes television networks or social networks. Deals like this must make the Tour’s traditional media partners nervous, but Monahan recently told The Wall Street Journal that “it would make sense” for the Tour to develop partial ownership of a golf network, and Golf Channel would certainly be the most obvious candidate.