A Good Stream Spoiled
PGA Tour and LIV highlight the effect of fewer streaming players 🏌🏾♂️
Compared to last week’s drama facing Major League Baseball, the state of PGA Tour streaming is about as sedate as commentary on this weekend’s Masters Tournament. On the hand, you can’t say the same about LIV Golf’s breakaway tour. The different experiences these tournament organizers face reflect a reality of today’s streaming industry: consolidation favors the big guys.
In this issue:
The PGA Tour navigated streaming transitions in the US
Even the Warner/Discovery merger didn’t disrupt the Tour
But only a sweetheart deal got LIV onto The CW (Yes, The CW)
US PGA Tour streaming is stable
PGA golf tournaments have been fixtures of American television since the 1950s. The Tour’s negotiators have been pretty savvy about playing each national network against the other. The latest deal, signed in 2020, gave Comcast (NBC, Golf Channel, Peacock) and Paramount (CBS, Paramount+) broadcast and streaming rights to PGA Tour events through 2030.
The PGA Tour’s own streaming strategy saw bigger changes. It folded its stand-alone PGA Tour Live subscription service into NBC Sports Gold, but that only lasted two years. Comcast shut down the service when it made Peacock the centerpiece of its streaming strategy. Disney snapped up the digital rights and now includes PGA Tour Live in every ESPN+ subscription.
Mergers impact international PGA streaming
The PGA Tour hoped signing a deal with Discovery would expand its international presence. The media company launched a stand-alone service called GolfTV to serve streaming audiences outside the United States.
Those hopes fell apart when Warner and Discovery merged. A golf-only service doesn’t fit WBD’s focus on the upcoming HBO Max and Discovery+ combo service.
For now, WBD still streams PGA tournaments in certain countries, but the PGA Tour took back its digital rights for the rest of the world. In a statement to the press, the PGA Tour said: “While GolfTV was successful from a growth standpoint, the media landscape changed, moving away from a single sport direct-to-consumer offerings to larger aggregated OTT platforms that can offer greater reach and subscriber value.”
For golf business drama, there’s always LIV
Established institutions like the PGA Tour can navigate consolidation in the media and streaming industry, but life is much more difficult for new entrants. The Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour spent its first season streaming from its website and YouTube channel. Landing deals with broadcasters and streamers was critical to LIV’s future, but Comcast, Paramount, Fox, and Disney apparently passed on the opportunity.
LIV landed a deal with The CW — the home of Riverdale and Nancy Drew — but media reports indicate that LIV wasn’t in the driver’s seat. Instead of licensing fees, LIV settled for a cut of The CW’s ad revenue.
But what revenue? National, entertainment, and sports media reported that LIV’s season-opener in Mexico brought in fewer than 300,000 broadcast viewers. At the same time, a weak lineup at the PGA Tour’s Honda Classic attracted an audience nearly ten times larger.
LIV and The CW tried to make a case for a streaming upside by claiming more than 2 million people watched “at least a few minutes” of the tournament across digital and broadcast channels.
Our takeaway: Media consolidation favors the big guys
Golf’s streaming experience over the past few years highlights how consolidation will affect the industry. Comcast/NBC Universal decided to fold its niche streamers into Peacock. Paramount did the same with Paramount+. Even the PGA Tour merged its offering into more general streaming services, first with NBC Sports Gold and now with ESPN+.
However, newcomers like LIV aren’t in a strong position when dealing with the big players. They don’t get to call the shots. Streaming was supposed to do the opposite by giving every narrow audience a way to watch content they like. Of course, we thought the same thing in the early days of cable. Big media wants big audiences. As consolidation continues, linear streaming is going to look an awful lot like linear cable.
Let us know your thoughts
Will you be streaming golf this year?
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