ESPN nears broadcast deal with Tiger Woods’ golf league

by Joanne Miller

ESPN is reportedly close to reaching an agreement with the emerging golf league TGL (The Golf League) for broadcast rights, according to sources familiar with the matter. This partnership would give TGL, led by golf legends Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, a valuable media partner ahead of its anticipated launch next year.

While the terms of the deal, including its value and duration, have yet to be finalized, negotiations are expected to be completed in the coming weeks. The inaugural TGL season is scheduled to commence in January. However, details regarding the number of TGL matches that would be broadcast on ESPN’s cable networks or proprietary streaming platforms remain undisclosed.

Representatives for both ESPN and TGL declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations. Nevertheless, this potential collaboration could prove significant for both parties given the current landscape of the golf industry.

For ESPN, this deal comes at a crucial time as the Walt Disney-owned network evaluates the future of its media networks. CEO Bob Iger has indicated that selling some of its linear television channels is a possibility, and Disney is actively seeking commercial partnerships for ESPN, which has long been regarded as a sports broadcasting powerhouse. Iger has also acknowledged that the shift from live sports on television to streaming is not a matter of “if, but when.”

The agreement between ESPN and TGL reflects the changing preferences of U.S. consumers, who are increasingly opting for online streaming over traditional cable subscriptions. In a similar vein, Warner Brothers Discovery recently announced plans to simulcast certain live sports properties, such as NBA games, on its Max streaming platform.

While ESPN navigates these shifts, the golf industry itself is grappling with significant changes. The proposed merger of the U.S.-based PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf breakaway tour has caused upheaval within professional golf. Rory McIlroy, a vocal opponent of LIV, and Tiger Woods, who was recently appointed to the PGA Tour board, are active participants in the ongoing discussions surrounding the potential merger.

Amidst this turmoil, Woods and McIlroy unveiled their plans in August 2022 to launch TGL, a new golf competition format featuring six teams that will compete once a week in primetime Monday-night broadcasts. The players will showcase their skills at a specially constructed virtual simulator course in an arena environment. Notably, Fenway Sports Group, hedge fund titan Steve Cohen, Home Depot founder Arthur Blank, Serena Williams, and her husband Alexis Ohanian have all invested in TGL teams, demonstrating the league’s appeal to influential figures.

Furthermore, TGL maintains a partnership with the PGA Tour and is primarily owned by Woods and McIlroy through their investment vehicle, TMRW Sports.

The potential partnership between ESPN and TGL could prove mutually beneficial, allowing ESPN to secure valuable content for its viewers while giving TGL the exposure and credibility it needs as a new golf league. As the negotiations progress, golf enthusiasts can look forward to more updates on this exciting development in the world of sports broadcasting.

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