FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 10th, 2013
PGA OF AMERICA AND NBC SPORTS GROUP CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPT WITH TED BISHOP, PETE BEVACQUA, MARK LAZARUS AND JON MILLER
October 10, 2013
1:30 p.m. ET
Greg Hughes: Good afternoon and thank you, everybody, for joining us today. We’re pleased to be joined by our friends from the PGA of America, long-time partners of the NBC Sports Group, with a great announcement today.
With us on the call are Ted Bishop, the President of the PGA of America; Pete Bevacqua, the CEO of the PGA of America; Mark Lazarus, the Chairman of the NBC Sports Group and Jon Miller, President of Programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network.
We’ll start with opening comments from some of our speakers and then we’ll take your questions. Let’s go ahead and start with Ted Bishop.
Ted Bishop: Well thank you, Greg. And today is quite a historic day for both the PGA of America and NBC Sports Group. I’m delighted to announce that we have agreed to extend NBC’s broadcast rights through 2030 for the Ryder Cup and the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid.
This new agreement will go into effect in 2015. NBC has televised the Ryder Cup since 1991, and by the end of this new term they will have presented one of sport’s most prestigious events for a span of 39 years. That’s pretty incredible.
Through this partnership, viewers will enjoy a wave of new programming and special coverage that includes Ryder Cup preview shows, vignettes, features, reports and points updates on NBC and Golf Channel; a Ryder Cup documentary series on both networks; live practice round coverage for the first time ever, and the Ryder Cup Captain Selection Show on the Golf Channel.
A new highlight show will take place on both Telemundo and Mundos to expand our Hispanic viewership. I’m also pleased that the agreement will elevate the status of PGA professionals as the leaders in growing and teaching the game. I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks to Mark Lazarus, Jon Miller and their team at NBC for their dedication to the PGA of America, the Ryder Cup, the Senior PGA Championship and certainly the PGA professional.
Finally, from my standpoint, it became apparent to me on the night that we announced that Bethpage would host the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup, that this exciting extension was going to take place. September the 17th was truly a great day for the PGA of America. It’s been hard to contain our excitement. We had very productive conversations with Commissioner Finchem and certainly respected the President’s Cup last week, and that’s why we’re doing this announcement this week. So thanks to all involved.
Pete Bevacqua: Thank you, Greg and Ted. As Ted said, this partnership is truly remarkable as it will include eight additional Ryder Cups and 16 Senior PGA Championships presented by KitchenAid.
In essence, the agreement will expand the relationship of the Ryder Cup well beyond the week of the event. It’s going to allow us, the PGA of America, to work hand in hand with NBC and the Golf Channel to hopefully grow participation in the game and certainly with an emphasis on attracting new golfers to the game. It’s going to build upon the current PGA events and quite frankly even potentially create new ones with NBC and Golf Channel as our partner.
As Ted mentioned, we recently announced that the Ryder Cup will be hosted at Bethpage in 2024, and we’re delighted that NBC will be there to cover every competition between now and then, as well as some six years beyond the ’24 Ryder Cup.
Finally, I’d like to echo Ted’s sentiments by congratulating our friends at NBC for their unwavering commitment to the PGA of America, to our PGA professionals and to the game of golf, and particularly to Mark Lazarus and to Jon Miller. I’ve known Jon for well over a decade, and on a personal and professional level I’m so excited to know that we’ll be working together for the foreseeable future.
Lastly, I wanted to thank my fellow staff members so many here at the PGA of America that worked so hard to get this very exciting deal done particularly, Kevin Carter, our Chief Business Officer and Casey Morton, our Director of Broadcasting and New Media. So with that, thank you to NBC, and we are certainly very excited here at the PGA of America.
Mark Lazarus: Thank you, all. Pete, Ted, congratulations and to your team. And Jon Miller, who’s sitting here with me, was there in 1991 when this deal was first struck, and I’m sure in 2030 will be here again to continue his legacy of the longest running partner to this prestigious event, so thank you, Jon.
The NBC Sports Group, with our NBC Golf product and Golf Channel, is a proud partner of the PGA of America. We understand and recognize the value not only of their content, but the role that they and the PGA professionals play in the game of golf.
We too have golf, not just televising golf as our business, but to help in the growth of the game. It’s an instrumental part of our overall corporate business. Partnering with them, their association and the PGA professionals to continue to build upon that is right with the core values of our company, and our belief in the game of golf.
This prestigious team event, along with the Senior PGA Championship and our ability to build around those events, gives us a real opportunity to continue to bring the game of golf to millions of television fans, and through the PGA professionals to touch as many golfers as we can with our products, and bring enjoyment of the game to those who care about it.
We are thrilled to be part of this. We are proud of what we’ve done in the past, we’re thrilled to be part of it in the future, and the opportunity to work with them. The certainty of working together with them to bring Tommy Roy and his team of skilled production talent and on-air talent to work with this product is one we’re very excited for.
Greg Hughes: Okay, let’s go ahead and open it up to questions.
Congratulations to all. One of the great things as a viewer and watching what you do on NBC with the Ryder Cup is that it generates so much traffic from folks who are casual fans. Is that what you will hope to continue to do – create the casual fan and develop them into, perhaps, a true golf fan?
Mark Lazarus: Our philosophy with all sports that we televise is to tell stories, to make viewers feel a sense of caring about the participants and about the venues. Some of these wonderful historic venues that the Ryder Cup and the Senior PGA Championship will visit are really extraordinary in regards to that.
Yes – we will continue to try to make this accessible to the casual fan, and either convert them to be true golf fans, or to live within the golf lifestyle that is a big part of the mission that the PGA and NBC’s golf business have in common.
Pete Bevacqua: And, Mark, if I can just add to this, what was such an attractive component of the continuation of this relationship for us is if you look at the Golf Channel as the broadcast voice of golf on a daily basis in America, and the PGA of America is really the tangible connection between the game, and quite frankly everybody who plays it in this country, what we can do together to promote the game and to attract new golfers into the game is really one of the most exciting components of this relationship.
It sounds like this is a win/win situation. When is the contract for coverage of the PGA Championship? And are you looking forward to possibly having NBC as the carrier for that event?
Pete Bevacqua: We have a great relationship with CBS and Turner Sports. Our current agreement for the PGA Championship extends through 2019, so we have had no conversations and no thinking about what we would do leading up to that point or beyond, other than to say that we have been treated exceptionally well by our broadcast partners in regard to the PGA Championship.
Congratulations, gentlemen. Mr. Bishop, through your tenure as an officer in the PGA you had some initial contact with NBC and observed how they do production. What was the one factor that you really wanted to push forward from that day – that page, or the urgency to get a contract done through 2030 when your contract ends at 2015? What was the one thing about NBC that was so unique that brought you to them?
Ted Bishop: Well, I think that it would go beyond just one thing. It’s a combination of things, and it goes back to the great history that we’ve had, and the confidence that we have in our partner like NBC to deliver the quality of production and to create the storylines and the drama that have really seen the Ryder Cup emerge into arguably one of the greatest sporting events since we entered into this marriage with NBC back in 1991 at Kiawah.
When you look at NBC’s ability to produce golf telecasts, who knows whether Tommy Roy will be around in 2030, but he just does a phenomenal job. I think that the PGA of America cares greatly about the quality of the product and the production.
I don’t think that when it came to the Ryder Cup, there was anybody that we would feel more comfortable with in entering into a long-term agreement, based on what they’ve done in the past, what we expect in the future in terms of their innovation, and their ability to be always on the cutting edge of the production aspect of golf than NBC.
Your initial reaction was that you wanted to pick up new golfers. What has been your mindset to implement that kind of thinking to grow the game through the TV broadcast?
Pete Bevacqua: Well what’s so exciting for us is the magnitude of what NBC represents in golf and beyond. What we’re here to do as the PGA of America is certainly to serve our PGA professionals and to grow the game.
When you start talking about some of the exciting programs that we have like Get Golf Ready, it’s one thing to talk about those during a golf telecast, but it’s another to be able to talk about those on a daily basis on the Golf Channel and across the spectrum of what NBC offers. So you can start talking to women on shows that women traditionally watch, and you can start talking to children on shows that children traditionally watch. You start to talk beyond the converted, and start to preach the message of golf and the benefits of golf beyond the converted. We think that is critical, and something that NBC can deliver like no one else in the industry.
Ted Bishop: From the perspective of a PGA member who has been around for decades and has heard our PGA members cry out for more exposure, for the opportunity to have their stories told. I think that the thing that is exciting about this deal is to look at the magnitude of what the potential is for that type of exposure for PGA members through the partnership that we’re going to have with the Golf Channel. I mean in some ways this is almost like having our own TV network, to a degree, and we’ll be able to promote and do things that we’ve never been able to do in the past. When you’re looking at tangible member benefits — and the PGA of America exists firsts and foremost for members — this really epitomizes something that is hugely important to our members.
How important was it to you guys to hold on to the Ryder Cup in lieu of losing the US Open earlier this year? And what — if any — live golf content from the actual Ryder Cup matches – is going to be pegged for NBC Sports Network?
Mark Lazarus: It’s completely independent of the outcome of the USGA deal. This is an important event for NBC since 1991, and will continue to be an important event. We will put our all into this in working with the PGA. I don’t look at it as anything other than a completely independent decision – one we were going to make regardless of the outcome of any other deal we make. We are going to work with the PGA of America on how we utilize all of our assets. We’re committed to them to put our assets to work for this event in a series of ways, and we’ll make programming announcements later on as we get closer to the beginning of this deal. But suffice to say that the complete complement of our assets will be at work here.
I was wondering if anybody can give us a little bit of an idea on when these discussions started. Also, I’m just wondering if there were any organizational practice issues related to sending on that announcement.
Pete Bevacqua: I can tell you that I started having conversations about the future of the Ryder Cup certainly internally with Ted and his fellow officers and our staff almost from the moment I started in November of 2012, and soon thereafter began to have those conversations with Jon Miller, who I said I’ve known for well over a decade.
NBC and the Golf Channel are such an obvious partners for the Ryder Cup. As Ted alluded to, the job that they’ve done for decades – it’s one of those situations that you’re always lucky when it’s just an astonishingly easy decision. Add all of the additional content, and the celebration of the PGA Professional primarily through the Golf Channel, it’s really what just made an easy decision even easier.
In terms of sitting on the news — as Ted mentioned — we felt like we had a deal roughly in principle on the evening of the (Bethpage) announcement. It was just what worked best for the PGA of America, certainly what worked best for NBC, and quite frankly what worked best in the overall golf environment.
One quick follow-up – what’s the status of the Friday coverage? Is that continuing on ESPN?
Mark Lazarus: ESPN sub-licenses that currently from NBC. We have some contractual obligations for discussions with them. We will honor those commitments and that’s a story still to be told.
Was there any pressure considering the (Fox USGA) deal. Were there any other factors sloshing around considering the amount of money that was thrown around by Fox?
Mark Lazarus: I’m sure we paid more than we wanted to and I’m sure it’s less than the PGA wanted. That’s the way good fair negotiations work and discussions work. We are a very disciplined company. We only acquire content and programming that we think has a measurable return on our businesses and our shareholders. This certainly stands up to that, and will be very good for our overall golf business and our overall sports business.
Pete Bevacqua: From PGA of America perspective, the Ryder Cup is one of the critical financial engines that helps the PGA of America, quite frankly, do everything we do for golf and for our members. So the financial elements of a financial broadcast deal are always super critical. But for us, every bit is important. And I think Mark’s thought was what we can do around the partnership with NBC and Golf Channel. When we start to talk about our strategic mission to serve our members and to grow the game, you don’t have to look further than the Golf Channel to understand that they really are that daily voice of golf in this country. The PGA of America needs to be tied into that voice in our opinion.
Two quick questions for you. One for the NBC guys. Do you know yet whether there will be live programming from the Ryder Cup in 2014 in Scotland?
Mark Lazarus: Yes there will be live programming from Scotland. That is our plan and our intent. Weather permitting, obviously. It is subject to change with the weather, but our current plan has us on a live schedule.
Question for Pete. How do you balance the fact that you’re trying to maximize the value of your TV deal with having the long-term agreement. What is the thinking behind that?
Pete Bevacqua: There are several factors that go into it. Obviously, you want to partner with an entity that can help you to continue to elevate the Ryder Cup, and again, the proof is in the track record. What NBC has helped the PGA of America, and quite frankly helped our friends at Ryder Cup Europe is consistently continue to elevate it and continue to grow the Ryder Cup. It’s also a question what can we do beyond the Ryder Cup? What can we do with the Senior PGA Championship? What can we do with some of our other events?
What can we do on a really consistent basis to reestablish and to continue to drive home the critical role the PGA professional plays at every level, at every club, at every facility, at every resort. We go back to the fact that it is the PGA of America that connects the game to everyone who plays it.
When you think about that, and what we can do with the NBC and the Golf Channel again on a consistent basis, it made this a pretty straight-forward process because we trust this partner. We have an unbelievable track record with them.
Knowing we can continue to work side-by-side with them through 2030 to continue to elevate the Ryder Cup, continue to elevate the PGA Senior Championship, and quite frankly the everyday role of the PGA of America – there’s just tremendous value in that, well beyond the dollars.
Mark Lazarus: Pete just said they trust us, and that makes us very proud. We feel very honored that they would trust us with their most valuable biannual event – The PGA championship obviously has great value as well. But this property, which has so much rich history and tradition and has been built into an international sporting event – that they would trust us with that makes us feel very good, and we thank them for that.
Are you planning on formally bringing in any additional experts to the broadcast team? For example, past captains like Jack Nicklaus or Tony Jacklin, or perhaps even Tom Watson. Is that going to be part of the equation?
Jon Miller: We are lucky in that we have Tommy Roy, who is the single best producer in golf – probably that has ever been in golf. He has assembled an exceptional talent team and I’m sure that he will look at all opportunities. Honestly, we’ve got such a great talent team assembled now that I know he’s very conscious of who else is out there, but I think he’s also conscious of the chemistry. Covering an important event like the Ryder Cup is unique. Those are all going to be things that I’m sure he’s going to take into consideration. Those decisions will rest with Tommy Roy primarily.