Discovery, PGA Tour tee up $2 billion international rights deal

By Published on .

David Zaslav (l.) and Jay Monahan
David Zaslav (l.) and Jay Monahan Credit: Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Discovery Inc., has teed up a 12-year, $2 billion deal with the PGA Tour that gives the cable colossus exclusive international rights to televise and stream some 150 golf tournaments, or around 2,000 hours of content per year.

Per terms of the deal, which begins next year and extends through 2030, Discovery will develop a Netflix-esque direct-to-consumer streaming platform for golf fans. The PGA pact gives Discovery the rights to carry marquee events like the Players Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs and the biennial Presidents Cup. The latter tournament is scheduled to be held in December 2019 in Melbourne, Australia.

While Discovery has scooped up the TV and digital rights to a host of PGA events, the new deal does not include the major tournaments, such as the Masters, U.S. Open and the Open Championship (aka the British Open).

The PGA agreement is the latest in a string of offshore sports-rights deals for Discovery. Three years ago, the Silver Spring, Md.-based programmer acquired the pan-European media rights to the Olympics. The 2018 PyeongChang Games marked Discovery's first stab at distributing the Olympics, and according to the company's first quarter earnings call, the 18-night winter spectacular helped drive its international ad sales revenue up 11 percent versus the year-ago period.

In a Monday afternoon press conference, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan took pains to emphasize the international appeal of golf, which depending on who you ask was either invented in Scotland, the Netherlands or China. (If you're splitting hairs, the modern game is almost certainly a Scots concoction.)

"Today there are roughly 50 million people around the world that play the game," Monahan said, adding that golf is a "$170 billion industry, with 55 percent of the participation coming outside the U.S." Given the game's international flavor, the PGA came to the conclusion that the ever-expanding Discovery made for an ideal overseas broadcast partner. "They are the strongest player internationally when it comes to content, when it comes to distribution, and when it comes to direct-to-consumer experience," Monahan said.

He added that the branded over-the-top streaming service will be up and running as of Jan. 1 of next year. As for what name the service will be marketed under, Monahan said, "We're working on it."

Discovery Inc. President and CEO David Zaslav said that while it may take a while to create a platform and an experience that international golf fanatics will embrace, the goal is to offer something that duffers cannot live without.

"What else do they want to see? … What do they want to see when they wake up?" Zaslav asked. "Do they want more long-form, short-form, more instruction? Do they want to be able to buy more stuff?

"We want to create something that every person wakes up in the morning, hits it, says 'I love this thing,' and then asks five or 10 friends, 'Do you have this thing? If you love golf, you've got to have it.'"

Discovery is home to a stable of stateside cable networks that includes the eponymous flagship channel as well as TLC, Animal Planet and Investigation Discovery. In March, Discovery completed its acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive, a $14.6 billion deal that brought Food Network, HGTV and erstwhile Discovery property Travel Channel under the company's umbrella of lifestyle brands.

This spring marks the first time the Discovery and Scripps brands will be sold as a package during the upfront bazaar.

Most Popular