Sports Outside the Beltway

LPGA + McDonald’s + The Golf Channel= A ‘Major’ Disaster

Some news from Golf World-

When CBS and the McDonald’s LPGA Championship parted ways last month and the telecast of the women’s major championship landed on The Golf Channel, the assumption was that network officials were not interested in women’s golf. But Golf World has learned the truth might be the other way around: Sources say NBC would have jumped at the opportunity to air the event. But the Olympics network never got the opportunity.

Jon Miller, NBC’s senior vice president of sports, said when NBC learned CBS was giving up the McDonald’s (because tournament officials wouldn’t agree to the network’s request for a 3 p.m. Sunday finish), he called the LPGA and told commissioner Carolyn Bivens his network would like to take over the telecast. But Miller says Bivens told him McDonald’s officials had already decided to go with The Golf Channel; when Miller pressed her on it, Bivens told him the decision was “out of the LPGA’s hands.”

Why would any tournament, particularly a major, opt to give up broadcast network coverage? Money is the most obvious answer. A source familiar with the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said McDonald’s saved $1.2 million a year by going to The Golf Channel instead of a network. Unlike the PGA Tour, the LPGA buys network time for its tournament broadcasts, then sells the commercials itself to try to recoup its cost. The source told Golf World it would have cost $1.5 million to put the McDonald’s on CBS (or, presumably, NBC), but just $300,000 on The Golf Channel.

LPGA officials referred comment to McDonald’s officials. Tournament spokesman Frank Quinn said the decision to go with The Golf Channel had nothing to do with saving money, and everything to do with the enthusiasm and support The Golf Channel had shown in recent years. “This was not a financial move,” said Quinn. “[NBC] had not expressed interest in the past, and The Golf Channel expressed great interest. The Golf Channel is a growing force, and we went with them.”

A horrible decision has been made and the LPGA’s acquiescence in this matter doesn’t surprise me one bit.

The Golf Channel is not a good choice for broadcasting a Women’s major golf championship. The reasons-

1- The Golf Channel is not on all cable systems or if it is, it’s part of a sports package that costs extra money. The tournament therefore will have a much more limited viewing audience.

2- TGC has a contract requiring them to broadcast Nationwide events before any other US tournament broadcast. If both fall on the same weekend, TGC will have to show the LPGA Championship on tape delay.

If you want to see this feature of TGC’s programming, just look at when this week’s Corning Classic is on television.

3- Also there is TGC’s horrible coverage of women’s golf. It is rarely featured for more than a minute or two on their nightly Golf Central shows. The European and Senior tours get better coverage.

When there is an LPGA major, say the Nabisco Championship, TGC is out either previewing the Masters or has almost all its attention turned towards The Players Championship. They rather cover a major wannabe than a major championship.

The only way this makes common sense is from the $ standpoint. Sorry to say but the LPGA doesn’t look at the bigger picture. Namely their lack of exposure and this decision won’t be helping it one bit. Short-term the choice is financially ok, but it does nothing to improve the tour’s long-term outlook.

The LPGA’s decision isn’t surprising considering-

1- Their poor television deals. Like allowing ABC to broadcast the Women’s British Open on tape delay.
2- Last year’s decision to eliminate their online message boards and abandoning thousands of fans who used them. This was done without warning, leaving fans to scramble for themselves.
3- Tournamens only selling high priced season passes instead of daily tickets.
4- Revolving door tournament sponsors and tournaments with long histories going belly up. Leaving local and loyal golf fans without a venue.
5- A recent dustup with the news media over who has the ownership of stories about the tour and photos of its players. AP, two Hawaiian newspapers and Golf World magazine all stopped covering the tour for varying lengths of time in reply to the LPGA’s new policy which was later reversed.

I know Carolyn Bivens has been commissioner for barely six months, but all signs I see aren’t good. The LPGA is on the verge of a crisis stage if it isn’t in one already. Organized Women’s Professional Golf could be a thing of the past in the USA if things don’t change and fast.

Note- I am a big fan of both Men’s and Women’s professional golf. As you can see I’m opionated and passionate on the subject. I’d like to see the LPGA do well, I’m just terribly pessimistic at present.

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you are dead wrong. the golf channel is the best for 2 reasons 1- I can find out when they are on very easy. and they usually replay there events.and that gives me another chance to see it or tape it.

Posted by mike berton | June 5, 2006 | 04:55 pm | Permalink

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