Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LPGA Tour TV Update

Jon Show has been all over this story for the Sports Business Journal and has an update with some potentially blockbuster LPGA Tour news.

The LPGA is getting closer to piecing together the puzzle that it hopes will land a five-year network television agreement beginning in 2010.

Plans call for a competition series that would exist within the LPGA’s seasonlong calendar of events. The series would consist of eight events, likely including at least one major and one event outside the United States. Players would qualify for a championship event based on their performance in the series.

That championship could be a new tournament scheduled during the first quarter of each year as a lead-in to the LPGA season. Sources said the weekend before the Super Bowl was being considered.

Basically, you could eliminate the Fields Open and/or the SBS Open and replace it with the season opening event. That would presuppose that the season begins with a Super Bowl of sorts - a la NASCAR - or that the season would run year to year, like the NBA and NHL do today.

The LPGA-owned ADT Championship could be brought into the fold if the tour decides to scrap the current seasonlong qualifying system that culminates with the season-ending event. ADT’s title sponsorship expires after this year’s event.

I would be very disappointed to see the ADT Championship go by the wayside, but we don't have any confirmation one way or another on that. If it does go away, I would hope the LPGA would still try to preserve the ADT's great cutthroat format.
NBC and CBS met with the LPGA two weeks ago to discuss the package, which could be split among the two networks. Both already air LPGA events.
That makes sense, but probably eliminates the possibility that ESPN/ABC would be a cable partner for the LPGA Tour. I would have to assume that the LPGA Tour would want some air time on ABC for their events as part of a deal.

More on the series and the advertising revenue component:

Sources believe the LPGA is 30 to 45 days away from entering the marketplace with a package that would include a title or presenting sponsorship of the new series, a substantial media commitment and a title deal for the championship event. IMG is representing the LPGA in exploring an international media component.

One agency source said the LPGA may seek $8 million to $12 million annually, specifically targeting multinational corporations. “They really want to market this as a ‘global series,’” said the source.

Still complicating matters is the unsubstantial media backing that the LPGA brings to the table in the form of national partners or spot buys. The LPGA is in the market with national sponsorships that contain media commitments, although none have been finalized.

At the tournament level, each title sponsor would be assessed an additional media spend to be part of the series. The tour is beginning to contact tournament title sponsors to gauge their interest.

This could mean the death of a number of smaller events on the schedule. I would be particularly looking at Corning, which may explain a lot of the doom and gloom surrounding that event last weekend. The writing may have been on the wall. Also, the projection that the LPGA Tour may be expecting events to kick up to a minimum of $2 million in purse money could spell trouble for the Corona event (likely gone anyway), NW Arkansas, the Alabama Swing, the Samsung, and the Longs Drugs Challenge. That, though, is certainly nothing more than a rumor/guess coming out of Corning.

Lastly, some hints on the cable front:
Sources also said the LPGA has met with cable outlets, and is particularly interested in Turner, in part because of its new media unit and the potential ties to Turner-managed sites such as the PGA Tour and PGA of America.
Turner is a good solution, especially from a web standpoint. I would imagine, though, that Turner would want to make one of its web properties. It has several very profitable ones and I would almost assume that it would be a condition of business for the LPGA to hand the rights of that over to Turner.

Still, which TV presence would the LPGA get for television? TBS or TNT would suffice, but only TNT has ever really shown golf. It would definitely beef up their coverage.


The Constructivist said...

Not necessarily the death--just most of the schedule would be made up of non-playoff events. They're only talking 8 or so from my reading of Snow. I would hope the LPGA would someday be strong enough to have concurrent events like the PGA does.

Ryan Ballengee said...

I should be clearer on this one. I don't mean that the series of 8 would cause the death of events. I meant that the chatter at Corning of making the events have a minimum of a $2 million prize pool may come as a result of this TV deal - not to get into the 8 event series.

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