UPDATED with executive comments. Discovery has struck a $2 billion deal to acquire the international television and streaming rights to PGA Tour golf through 2030. The move is the latest high-profile sports agreement for the factual giant, following its successful Olympics debut earlier this year through its Eurosport division.
The deal, which gives Discovery online and TV rights, will give it access to more than 140 golf tournaments a year including around 40 high-profile PGA Tour events. The deal begins in January 2019 and covers all territories outside of the U.S.
It is expected to stream many events on a new OTT service that it plans to roll out, rather than its Eurosport Player digital service that now has more than 1M subscribers. At the same time, Discovery CEO David Zaslav noted that the “total flexibility” of the deal could also allow the partners to launch a new portfolio of golf-centric channels around the world.
Discover is expected to sub-license rights in some markets, as per other sports deals. The PGA deal will be overseen within the company by Eurosport executive Alex Kaplan, who joined Discovery last year from the NBA, where he was SVP Global Media Distribution, and Discovery’s international chief, JB Perrette.
Given the total potential audience of 4 billion, “this will be a massive business,” Zaslav predicted during a conference call with the media Monday. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t have 10, 20, 30, 40 million people around the world over the next couple of years who love golf. If you love golf, why wouldn’t you have this?”
PGA Tour Golf commissioner Jay Monahan said the seeds of the venture were planted in early 2017 as the tour was examining its international footprint. Seeing how Discovery handled the 2018 Olympics in South Korea helped cement the organization’s thinking that a partnership would make sense. Previously, the PGA had managed its global media profile in-house, which proved a daunting task. “They have people on the ground, they’ve got data,” Monahan said. “They’ve got all the information you need in terms of how to make the right decisions about who to partner with and how to present your content.”
Discovery has grown as a company based on linear carriage deals in regions and territories that are negotiated with a patchwork of cable and satellite distributors. But Zaslav said the strategy driving the PGA deal reflects a different strategy, one that is direct-to-consumer and global. “The only guys who have taken on a global attack have been the big … the Amazons, the Apples, the Facebooks. We look at them, Jay and I, and we go, ‘Wow. That’s the approach.’ And so, the whole idea of this is, we start with the globe.”
The PGA deal comes as the popularity of golf outside of the U.S. increases; half of the league’s top 50 players are from outside of the U.S., including the UK’s Justin Rose, Spain’s Jon Rahm and China’s HaoTong Li.
In the U.S., PGA events will continue to air on CBS, NBC and NBCUniversal’s Golf Channel through 2021.
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