PGA TOUR GOLF
ABC stepping away from PGA
KAPALUA, Maui » ABC Sports is no longer part of the negotiatiobns for the PGA Tour's next television contract, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said yesterday, leaving only two networks to broadcast the majority of tournaments.
The tour's contract expires after this year, and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has been negotiating a new TV contract since the week before Thanksgiving, with a deal expected to be announced within the next two weeks.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity because the tour's contract has not been finalized, said ABC left the table about a week ago.
"It's a done deal. ABC is out," the source said. "It all comes down to dollars."
ABC spokesman Mark Mandel declined comment because of ongoing negotiations. When asked if ABC was still part of the negotiations, he said, "That is our official response."
ABC golf producer Mark Loomis was at the Rose Bowl and could not be reached for comment. Loomis shook up ABC's coverage last year by putting Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo together in the booth, and both got strong reviews.
"I'm highly disappointed, for a lot of people," Azinger told Golf World magazine, which first reported the development on its Web site. "Not for me, because I have a golf career. I'm disappointed for all the people behind the scenes that you're never going to see or hear of. I feel bad for Mark Loomis, too. He took a big chance with Faldo and me, and it worked. Unfortunately, the network was unwilling to write the check."
PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs declined comment.
"Because our discussions with our TV partners are still in progress, it's not appropriate to provide any comment on those discussions," Combs said.
The PGA Tour has twice negotiated massive deals with the networks through the popularity of Tiger Woods. One deal was negotiated after he won the Masters in 1997 at age 21, and the other deal was finalized after Woods became the only player to consecutively win all four majors.
But the networks have said they were losing money on golf, and Finchem brought a revamped schedule to the negotiations this year. Starting in 2007, the tour will feature the FedEx Cup, a points race that culminates with three blockbuster tournaments, ending with the Tour Championship.
The rest of the fall season, where ratings suffer because of football, would have seven tournaments for players to earn money toward keeping their card. Those events are slated for cable, although Golf World said that remains the final piece of negotiations.
With ABC out of picture, that leaves NBC Sports and CBS Sports to pick up the slack from January through September. Golf World cited sources as saying NBC would double its commitment in 2007, adding two West Coast events and three of the four events that end the FedEx Cup.
ABC still has a contract with the Royal & Ancient to televise the British Open through 2009, but the network source said it makes little sense for ABC to have only one golf tournament, and that it was likely another network would try to get that major.
ABC will have 16 tournaments on the PGA Tour this year, starting with the Bob Hope Classic. During the last contract, it took most of the summer events -- from the Barclays Classic through the British Open -- and picked up the less popular fall events from the American Express Championship through the end of the season.