KAHUKU, Oahu, Hawaii (Feb. 11, 2009) – GOLF CHANNEL and the LPGA Tour have agreed to a historic, 10-year partnership that will make the network the exclusive cable home of the premier women's professional golf tour beginning in 2010. The new agreement establishes the LPGA as the only stand-alone women's professional sports association in the United States to receive a rights fee agreement for domestic broadcast coverage.
The joint announcement was made today by LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens and GOLF CHANNEL President Page Thompson at the season-opening SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Hawaii.
Over the past 14 years, GOLF CHANNEL has televised a number of LPGA events, including exclusive coverage of The Solheim Cup since 2005 and McDonald's LPGA Championship since 2006. The LPGA HealthSouth Disney Classic was the first domestic golf tournament televised by the network soon after launch in 1995.
As part of the new agreement, nearly all LPGA Tour events televised in the United States will be carried by GOLF CHANNEL, including the entire cable package.
GOLF CHANNEL will carry three- and four-round coverage of domestic events, including one major championship, and international feeds of LPGA global events, as well as early round coverage of events that will have weekend coverage on other networks. The network also will continue with exclusive rights to the biennial Solheim Cup, the marquee, international team competition pitting the United States against Europe.
“We are excited to announce this historic partnership with the GOLF CHANNEL that will, for the first time, provide the LPGA with an exclusive cable partner,” said Bivens. “Our long-term goal has been to establish a consistent platform for LPGA viewership, improve the production quality of our telecasts and enhance the season-long promotion of our players and events. We were able to achieve this through our partnership with the GOLF CHANNEL. It's an important day for our members, partners, GOLF CHANNEL viewers and golf fans across the country.”
"We are big believers in the LPGA Tour and its talented, charismatic players, and look forward to working with the Tour to continue to grow its brand in the coming years,” said Thompson.
In 2009, GOLF CHANNEL will televise competition from 12 LPGA Tour events, in addition to the McDonald's LPGA Championship, Presented by Coca-Cola, June 11-14, and The Solheim Cup, Aug. 17-23, from Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens
Golf Channel president Page Thompson
DAVID HIGDON: Good afternoon, everybody. We're in here today with Mr. Page Thompson of the Golf Channel, and we have the commissioner of the LPGA, Ms. Carolyn Bivens. And we're going to turn it over to Carolyn to start us off. She will make announcements. Page will have a few words to say, and we will open it up for any and all questions you have.
CAROLYN BIVENS: I have just a couple of people in the back of the room, some you may not know, Libba Galloway, our Deputy Commissioner who is in the back. We have a player liaison Heather Daly-Donofrio. We have the newly elected head of the player directors, the president, Michelle Ellis, is also in the back of the room.
We are pleased today to be able to announce something that from the time that I joined the LPGA three and a half years ago was identified as one of the things that the Board of Directors and the LPGA was hoping we would be able to make a change, to find a television home, if you will, for the LPGA, making the programming a bit more consistent, finding a partner that could grow with the LPGA; and we have in fact found that.
We are announcing today that Page (Thompson) and the Golf Channel and the LPGA have just agreed to a ten year television exclusive. The Golf Channel will be the exclusive cable home for the LPGA.
I hope that you all have seen some great, great improvements over the course of the last year. Page has been with the Golf Channel for a couple of years. The partnership started soon after Page got there, and everything from graphics to coverage to promotion to working with the LPGA was laying the ground work for the agreement that we announced today.
It is not insignificant to the LPGA that we are the first stand alone women's sports organization domestically to be paid a rights fee. We're not going to talk about any of the details of that, but it is ground breaking. So Page, I'm going to ask you to say a few things.
PAGE THOMPSON: I just wanted to say on behalf The Golf Channel I'm really excited by this deal. We think the LPGA has a huge number of talented and charismatic players, and we really look forward to presenting them on The Golf Channel over the coming years and working with Carolyn and the LPGA to grow the brand and to make people more aware of all these great players and their stories because there are some incredible stories out on the LPGA Tour.
Whenever an organization like the LPGA enters into such a long term deal as this one, they've put a lot of trust in their broadcast partner, and I just want to tell all the players and all the sponsors of the LPGA that we will do our utmost to grow the LPGA and make the sport even stronger. So thank you for your confidence in us, and we look forward to the partnership.
CAROLYN BIVENS: Thank you, Page.
Q. Mr. Thompson, any concerns about the long term economic climate?
PAGE THOMPSON: No. We don't really have any concerns. Every single organization, every sport, every company in the United States has been touched in some way by the economic problems we're having. We're very confident in the LPGA. We know they're going to be a long term, strong partner for us.
Q. How satisfying is it for you to get a first rights fee?
CAROLYN BIVENS: The right fit was important. It was more important to find a consistent home. As you all know, we talked about it for a long time, it's very difficult for our core, ardent fans to find the LPGA. We're between a couple of cable networks and between several broadcast networks, and by the time you also weigh in some of the off weeks for the women, opposite the Masters and the PGA Championship, it's very difficult for even our best fans to find out where we are, to have a consistent home.
It's just as important to find a partner who believes as much in the LPGA as we do, who believes in the story, the charisma of the players and sees the growth opportunity for the LPGA. It's certainly nice, but it wasn't the motivating aspect of the partnership.
Q. You truly are the Golf Channel on every Tour. How much will be live and how much will be tape delayed?
PAGE THOMPSON: We'll work with the LPGA over the next year or so to finalize a lot of plans, details. It's a little early to go into detail on that, but I am very happy now that the Golf Channel is now the exclusive home for every LPGA Tour golf tournament. It's very exciting for us.
Q. Can you give us an idea of Michelle Wie's impact on this deal?
PAGE THOMPSON: I don't know if Michelle Wie has any impact on this deal, but it's exciting to have her on the LPGA Tour.
Q. You don’t think she had an impact?
PAGE THOMPSON: Well, Michelle Wie's presence on the LPGA Tour has historically had an impact on rating, but that doesn't have anything to do with this deal.
CAROLYN BIVENS: I'd say the same thing. We talked this morning. Michelle Wie is one of the great stories out there. It's one of the stories that holds a lot of promise. She owns a card, and we've been watching her for six years, and a lot of people are cheering for her to fulfill the potential that we've all seen in her.
There are a lot of other great stories out here in the rookie class. We can't overlook Vicky Hurst, who a lot of people don't know right now, but she's an awesome story. Jiyai Shin and Stacy Lewis. We got an insight into Stacy's personality at Q School when she said she wasn't just going to win a card. She was going to win Q School, which she did.
So when you add those rookies to the array of personalities, Cristie Kerr, Christina Kim, Lorena (Ochoa), Paula (Creamer), it's a nice lineup and it's a lineup that looks like it's going to hold up for a number of years.
Q. Page, do you see the Golf Channel developing some LPGA specific programming in addition to your tournament coverage?
PAGE THOMPSON: Absolutely. In fact, we talked about that quite a lot as we developed our plan together, and we want to support the LPGA throughout all of our coverage, in our news programming, our original programming. There are just a number of LPGA stars. As I said before, they're great stories, they're awesome people and they're great players, so I think this won't be difficult at all for us to find great stories. And you know, you've been out here on this Tour. It's a deep pool of really talented players, and it's a very exciting Tour.
Q. What will this mean for the growth of purses on Tour?
CAROLYN BIVENS: The tournament model will not change, so it's not going to change into a tournament model like the PGA where we'll be underwriting purses. It's not like that, other than the events that the LPGA owns. The rights fee is shared with the tournament, so from that perspective, it will help underwrite in a round about way the expenses of the tournament and the purses.
PAGE THOMPSON: I just want to say, for the record, by the way, we already do a lot of programming with the LPGA Tour. We've done player profiles on Christina Kim and Paula Creamer and a number of other people.
We've done original programming with the players with "The Big Break." Of course, we have several "Big Break" players, including Kim Welch, who's in the rookie class, and other people on the LPGA Tour. So we're already doing that. We're going to expand, some new media things we might do. I think we have a lot of potential there.
Q. Do you think this will increase sponsorship on the LPGA?
PAGE THOMPSON: In terms of sponsors, I think this long term deal carries a lot of potential for the LPGA and Golf Channel to work together to develop sponsors, so I think it will have a positive impact on sponsors, and we do plan to work together to grow the number of sponsors on Tour.
Q. You said the fee wasn't the most important factor, but does it help provide you some long term security?
CAROLYN BIVENS: Sure, it helps. Again, it wasn't the driving factor. If we could have only had one thing out of this is to get more consistent programming and to have a partner that really wants to grow with the LPGA, wants to grow tournament coverage, wants to make the LPGA as exciting as it can be to fans who are watching on television as well as those who are the Internet.
Q. What took you so long? Were you trying to knock out the men's tours first?
PAGE THOMPSON: Well, we had to do it and the deal expired at the end of this year. So that's why we did this now.
About GOLF CHANNEL
GOLF CHANNEL(www.GolfChannel.com), co-founded by Arnold Palmer and a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA, CMCSK), will be the exclusive cable home for all the world's major golf tours beginning in 2010. The network is available in more than 120 million homes worldwide through cable, satellite and wireless companies. GOLF CHANNEL features a programming schedule that includes more live golf coverage than all other networks combined, as well as news, instruction and original productions. In 2009, more than 2,100 hours and over 750 original hours will air in native HD featuring tournaments and all-new original series. In addition to more than 40 PGA TOUR events and at least 15 European Tour events, GOLF CHANNEL will air selected LPGA Tour stops, The Presidents Cup and The Solheim Cup in HD. The network became the exclusive cable home of the PGA TOUR in 2007, and televises part or all of every PGA TOUR event. In addition, the network is exclusive television home of the Nationwide Tour, European Tour and Canadian Tour, and the exclusive cable home of the Champions Tour. Also featured is a generous mix of other competition from the LPGA Tour, USGA, PGA of America, Asian Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour of Southern Africa.
About the Ladies Professional Golf Association
The LPGA features a membership comprised of world-class LPGA Tour professionals and dedicated Teaching and Club Professionals (T&CP). Today's LPGA Tour features the most talented global group of professional athletes who, in 2009, will compete in a minimum of 30 official money events in 10 countries with total prize money of nearly $55 million. In addition to its dynamic Tour members, 1,200 certified LPGA T&CP members serve the golf industry in teaching, coaching and management positions, and oversee programs aimed at increasing the involvement of women, girls and youth in golf. The LPGA's Vision is to inspire, empower, educate and entertain by showcasing the best golf professionals in the world. Its Mission is to be a leader in the world of sports, to promote economic empowerment for all members, and to serve as role models on and off the course. The LPGA is headquartered in Daytona Beach, Fla. For more information on the LPGA, log on to www.LPGA.com.