The U.S. PGA Tour reached nine-year television contract extensions with CBS Corp. and Comcast Corp.’s NBC through 2021 as the networks prepare to focus more on golf’s rising stars and less on Tiger Woods.
Financial terms weren’t disclosed by Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem during a conference call. Finchem said the rights “were increasing” without providing dollar figures or percentages.
The new contracts were reached as Woods’s winless streak has reached 22 months. The 14-time major-tournament winner, who boosted television ratings by as much as 50 percent when he was in contention, according to Nielsen Co. figures, has slipped to No. 38 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Woods had “much less of an impact than the last time we spoke to the PGA Tour,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a telephone interview. “We were very conservative with respect to Tiger’s effect. If Tiger plays well and is a factor in these tour events as he has been in the past, that will be a big bonus for us. We have not counted on that with respect to our business model.”
The tour’s current network contracts, reached in 2006 and worth $2.95 billion, were set to expire after the 2012 season. The tour’s contract with Comcast’s Golf Channel also expires in 2021.
Woods, 35, didn’t qualify for the tour’s season-ending playoff events, which continue this week with the Deutsche Bank Championship in Norton, Massachusetts.
CBS will continue to broadcast an average of 20 tournaments through the life of the agreements, while NBC will continue to televise an average of 10 events per year.
Although Woods’s woes may have led to a decrease in viewership among casual fans, the rise of young players, such as Dustin Johnson, the winner of last week’s Barclays tournament in New Jersey, has given networks security that support for golf will remain strong over the next decade, McManus said.
“We’re not at all pessimistic about ratings going forward,” he said. “It’s just that we haven’t assumed the kind of extraordinary bump we all got used to two and three years ago. If I didn’t think the ratings of golf programming were going to be consistent and hopefully grow in the future, there’s no way we would have done a nine-year deal.”
While ratings for most events have increased this year, according to Finchem and network executives, final-round ratings of the three U.S.-based major tournaments declined an average of 18 percent this season without Woods in contention.
The Masters Tournament in April was watched by 13 percent fewer U.S. households as a final-round rally by Woods wasn’t enough to overtake winner Charl Schwartzel.
Final-round ratings for the U.S. Open, won by Rory McIlroy in June, were down 26 percent on NBC. Woods skipped the tournament due to knee and ankle injuries. The 2010 U.S. Open, won by Graeme McDowell at California’s Pebble Beach, concluded in prime-time for part of the U.S.
Last month’s PGA Championship, won by Keegan Bradley, had a 14 percent drop in final-round ratings from a year earlier, according to CBS. Woods failed to qualify for weekend play for the first time in the tournament’s history.
Although the on-air portion of the contracts with CBS and NBC remain similar, the new contracts will allow the Golf Channel to provide live coverage of all tournaments at the same time events are being shown on NBC and CBS, beginning in 2013.
Simulcast Internet coverage of tournaments will also be shown on websites for the PGA Tour, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and the Golf Channel.