NBC Sports is hoping to score more greenbacks by streaming more action from the golf green.
Launched in 2015, the PGA Tour Live has been run by Disney’s BAMTech Media streaming division, with select programming from the digital package available this year on ESPN+, the sports cabler’s own subscription-video product.
“Moving PGA Tour Live over to NBC Sports Gold represents the next evolution of our product,” said Rick Anderson, chief media officer of the PGA Tour.
Financial terms of the pact weren’t disclosed. The partnership includes rights to all of PGA Tour Live’s Thursday and Friday morning coverage from 28 annual events, starting with the CareerBuilder Challenge in January 2019, featuring The Players in March and running through the FedExCup Playoffs in August. Next year, PGA Tour Live plans to stream more than 360 hours of exclusive coverage, as well as hundreds of hours of “featured holes” coverage complementing what airs on TV.
For the PGA, teaming with NBC Sports — which will power the PGA Tour Live Service through its Playmaker Media division — offered several advantages. First, NBC will be able to promote the over-the-top package on its Golf Channel and NBC telecasts and digital platforms. “We’re excited to be able to bring this product in with the Golf Channel and really promote it to the core golf fan,” said Anderson.
Adding PGA Tour Live to the existing mix of golf on NBC and Golf Channel will give NBC Sports a “more holistic approach to the sport,” said Mike McCarley, president of golf for NBC Sports Group. “The more exposure you can give a sport across more platforms the better.”
In addition, NBC Sports will expand the availability of PGA Tour Live to new connected-TV devices including Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast and Roku. Currently, the service is available only on desktops, Apple TV, iOS and Android mobile devices.
Pricing for PGA Tour Live as part of NBC Sports Gold hasn’t been set yet. Currently, the PGA’s streaming subscription service is available for $39.99 per year or $5.99 per month. NBC is mulling moving it to a per-season pricing model, in line with the other sports tiers in NBC Sports Gold.
The PGA’s deal with BAMTech expires end of 2018, and it selected NBC Sports after a bake-off among several bidders. “We’ve had a great partnership with BAMTech and they were terrific partners all the way through,” Anderson said. He declined to disclose how many subs have signed up for PGA Tour Live.
Outside the U.S., PGA Tour just signed a 12-year deal with Discovery covering TV and digital streaming rights to PGA Tour events in all territories outside the U.S.
The NBC Sports Gold direct-to-consumer product launched in 2016 and includes a la carte packages for the Tour de France, Britain’s Premier League, Rugby World Cup, Boston Marathon and Pro Motocross. Also in 2019, it will add an IndyCar streaming subscription option.
Talks between NBC Sports and the PGA began in earnest over the winter, said Rick Cordella, EVP and general manager of digital media, NBC Sports Group. The PGA Tour Live content is “a window that doesn’t exist on TV, and it complements what we have on TV,” he said.
When PGA Tour Live launches on NBC Sports Gold in January 2019, the plan is to make all golf content for which NBC has the rights available through the NBC Sports app. That will bring NBC TV streaming, authenticated access to Golf Channel, and PGA Tour Live subscription content together in a single place, Cordella said.
Even though NBC Sports Gold sells its content packages a la carte, there’s a synergistic benefit to housing them all under one roof, according to Cordella. NBC plans to cross-market PGA Tour Live with other subscribers of NBC Sports Gold packages. “As you build this up, you do get a flywheel effect,” he said.
Why not bundle multiple sports under the NBC Sports Gold umbrella into a single price? Part of it is due to the “choppiness of the schedule,” Cordella said; for example, the Tour de France takes place only during the month of July. But more than that, he said, “we want people to understand what they’re buying and only pay for what they want.”
PGA Tour Entertainment will continue to produce the live coverage presented on PGA Tour live. Highlights of the PGA Tour Live subscription package launching on NBC Sports Gold include:
- Pre-Game Show: A 30-minute preview program that leads into the morning’s live competition coverage.
- Featured Groups: Early-round coverage on Thursdays and Fridays prior to Golf Channel’s afternoon television window. Featured Groups coverage follows two concurrent, high-profile groups throughout their 18-hole rounds. To date in 2018, PGA Tour Live has featured entire rounds (outside traditional televised windows) of Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and dozens of others.
- Featured Holes: Live coverage of some of the PGA Tour’s most iconic holes, concurrent with Golf Channel’s television window (traditionally from 3-6 p.m. ET).
- Featured Player Recaps: A catch-up of the day’s action with new condensed rounds from each player in the Featured Group coverage.
- Event Recaps: An hour-long cut-down show that highlights the best of each week’s tournament.
Pictured above: Rory McIlroy hits a putt on the 17th green during the second round of the PGA Tour’s Travelers Golf Championship on June 22, 2018