ESPN has joined CBS and the PGA of America in an 11-year, multi-platform rights deal for the PGA Championship, one of golf’s four majors and a likely bigger draw for viewers when it moves to May from August next spring.
The pact, which takes effect with the 2020 edition of the PGA at Harding Park in San Francisco, will end a nearly 30-year run for Turner Sports sharing coverage of the tournament.
While it is more than a century old, the PGA has historically been the lowest-profile major, compared with the Masters in April, the U.S. Open in June and the Open Championship (formerly the British Open) in July. Starting in 2019, the PGA will get new prominence and promotional opportunities when it moves to its new May spot on the calendar.
CBS Sports, which has carried the tournament since 1991, will continue to broadcast the third and final rounds on Saturday and Sunday, increasing its coverage by one hour each day. The new deal gives CBS expanded highlight and digital rights, including distribution of its coverage across all CBS platforms including CBSSports.com, CBS All Access and all mobile apps.
ESPN and its new $5-a-month subscription service ESPN+ will carry live action across all four days of the tournament, as well as pre-tournament and other ancillary coverage. Its platforms will have exclusive live coverage of the first and second rounds. In the the third and final rounds, ESPN and ESPN+ will have multiple hours of live coverage in the morning, tossing to CBS later in the day.
“For nearly a half-century, CBS Sports has been a vital member of the PGA of America extended family while delivering our major championship to golf fans across the country,” said PGA Chief Executive Officer Seth Waugh. “We are also thrilled to partner with ESPN and connect with sports fans through the reach of the ESPN networks. The PGA is a major that not only typically delivers the strongest field in golf, but is synonymous with historic moments that resonate with golf fans everywhere.”
Joe Ianniello, president and acting CEO of CBS said programming like the PGA “represents the past, present and future” of the company. “There is nothing like live sports programming to attract a mass audience and drive our business,” he said. “We are very pleased to extend our longstanding relationship with the PGA of America and this signature event.”
ESPN’s Jimmy Pitaro, who stepped in as president earlier this year, has been driving hard (and spending significant sums) to build subscriber levels at ESPN+. The service is something of a canary in the streaming coal mine for Disney, which plans to launch a new entertainment service by the end of 2019. Pitaro said having the new ESPN+ streaming capability “provides us the opportunity to go even deeper in showcasing the drama and excitement of the PGA for years to come.”