McManus: CBS still bullish on golf, big events


CBS Sports has aired the PGA Championship since 1991, and it will continue to do so through 2030 under terms of an 11-year contract extension announced Oct. 10.

Sean McManus (CBS)

ESPN, which partners with CBS on Masters coverage, will replace TNT as the broadcaster of early-round and early-weekend coverage.

The contract calls for expanded live coverage totaling more than 175 hours during tournament week. That includes coverage of practice rounds, feature groups and featured holes on ESPN+.

Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, said he anticipates the PGA Championship will benefit from the move to May, adding that he remains bullish on golf. McManus spoke with Golfweek about the new contract.

Golfweek: Congratulations on the new deal. How did this come about?

McManus: We’ve been working on this for a couple of years. It was really important part of our golf programming slate and it was very important that we retained it. When it moved to May, it became an even more attractive property for us. I think the television ratings will be better in May than they were in August. I know the sales marketplace is better in May than in August. And I think the overall standing of the event will be elevated. It was important to us, when the opportunity presented itself, to have the first two majors of the year. So we’re very pleased to get it done. … I applaud the PGA for getting a really nice increase in the rights payment, but the deal makes sense for us financially. I think having ESPN in the mix, since we’re partners with them on the Masters, makes even more sense for everybody.

Aug 12, 2018; Saint Louis, MO, USA; Justin Thomas pumps his fist after making a birdie putt on the 10th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
CBS will air the PGA Championship through 2030. (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)

Golfweek: How will your team promote the fact that CBS has the year’s first two majors?

McManus: The bulk of promotion for the PGA, although it will be year-long, will be between the Masters and the PGA Championship. In that window, since we’re doing a lot of golf anyway, I think it will be a really good promotional platform. We’ve made significant commitments to the PGA to increase the amount of promotion. I think the halo effect of being the first major championship after the Masters will benefit everybody. The end of the golf season was a little convoluted. You had the PGA Championship and then the playoffs and the FedEx Cup. With the PGA Championship having its own place in May and the FedEx Cup having its own place in August, I think it’s much better for the overall marketplace.

Golfweek: Tiger Woods drew huge ratings when he won last month. He’ll be in his 50s when this contract expires. Given his impact on ratings, how did you value the final years of this contract?

McManus: To be honest, we didn’t really factor Tiger Woods into our numbers. Most of our numbers that we came up with were arrived at prior to him making his comeback at the Tour Championship. We made the assumption it would be great if he came back. But the upside that he brings (to ratings) wasn’t part of our numbers when we came up with a rights-fee offer for the PGA Championship. We’re all rooting for him. It’s a given that you get enormous ratings if he’s in contention on the weekends. But if Tiger isn’t a factor going forward, this deal still makes sense for us financially.

Golfweek: Do you like a deal of this term as opposed to something shorter?

McManus: Our philosophy has been, and you can see it with the NCAA Basketball deal we did a couple of years ago, the longer the deal is, the more attractive it is for us. We have incredible faith that live sports programming is going to be increasingly more important as it becomes more difficult to generate large audiences on broadcast television. We were happy with the 11-year deal. If the PGA wanted to go longer, we would have gone longer. As far as we’re concerned, the longer you can lock up these marquee sports properties, the better off you are strategically with respect to the future of broadcast television.

Aug 12, 2018; Saint Louis, MO, USA; Tiger Woods celebrates after making a birdie putt on the 18th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Tiger Woods made a run at Bellerive this year but fell short to Brooks Koepka. (John David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports)

Golfweek: We see a lot of data about declining rounds played and participation in golf. Big picture, are you still bullish on golf?

McManus: I am. I think the emergence of the young stars has been positive. You can’t minimize the fact that the corporate sponsorship is so incredibly strong through the PGA Tour and the PGA of America. That’s a factor with regard to the financial viability of the sport. The sponsorship and the underwriting and the entitlements get stronger every year. That’s a major reason to have faith in the future of golf. So I’m very bullish on golf and hope to protect our position as the leading broadcaster in golf.

Golfweek: Do you have any other thoughts on this deal?

McManus: This is the first event we’ve done with the new management at the CBS Corp., and I think there were questions about whether we were going to continue to be aggressive in sports programming. I think this is a really good indication that we are. The corporation was incredibly supportive in getting this deal done. My marching orders were to do a financially responsible deal, but also make sure we didn’t lose the event.

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