NORTON, Mass. (AP) — The PGA Tour had what Commissioner Tim Finchem described as “robust” conversations with Fox Sports in two of the last three television negotiations until scheduling conflicts with the network kept the discussion from going anywhere.
Fox entered the golf landscape in a surprising manner three weeks ago by signing a 12-year deal with the U.S. Golf Association worth about $100 million a year. Fox, which does not televise any golf, is to start with the U.S. Open and other USGA championships in 2015.
The USGA accepted its bid over a strong offer from NBC Sports, which had been televising the U.S. Open since 1995 at Shinnecock Hills. NBC also has 12 other PGA Tour events this year, and it broadcasts the Ryder Cup.
Johnny Miller, the former U.S. Open champion and NBC golf analyst, said when the Fox deal was announced that the tour “must be licking their chops” and that Fox might offer “crazy money to get the tour package.”
The PGA Tour has contracts with two networks, NBC and CBS, and with Golf Channel through 2021.
Even so, Finchem said Wednesday that having Fox involved in golf is good for the tour over the long run.
“It’s always nice to have multiple entities in the sport,” Finchem said at the Deutsche Bank Championship. “There are positives — a few negatives, but there are positives. To have companies invested in the sport in any way results in more focus on the sport from those broadcast companies. … So there are different advantages. I think it’s to our advantage long term. There will be some transition challenges there, but I think it’s to your advantages long term to have them involved.”
He said the tour has spoken to Fox “a number of times” in the last 10 to 15 years.
“We just never got to an arrangement, but we know they have an interest,” he said. “We had serious, robust conversations in the middle of two of the negotiations in the last three. One of the main issues with them is scheduling. I mean, they have a lot of baseball. They have a lot of NASCAR. They have stuff, given the way Fox is set up. And we really like our two-network arrangement right now, anyways.”
Fox is to deliver 146 hours of USGA golf, including at least 70 hours of its three main events — the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open. Fox Sports 1, the company’s new cable channel, was launched Aug. 17. Fox has been aggressively chasing rights to bolster its content, but there weren’t a lot of options in the immediate future because of the increasing length of sports deals.
Finchem did not say if the tour was concerned about Fox’s ability to handle golf because it had never televised the sport. Miller was particularly critical, saying that “you can’t just fall out of a tree and do the U.S. Open.”
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” Finchem said. “They’ve got to build a capability there, working with the USGA, and I’m sure they will. They’re professionals. They do an excellent job in producing the other sports that they have. I’m sure they’ll get the talent together to do a good job for the USGA, but it will be interesting to see what happens when that lines out. When they get certain people in certain positions, we’ll find out.”
Greg Norman has said that Fox has contacted him about being the golf analyst for the U.S. Open.
“I don’t think he has the interest in doing it, but I think he would be good at television,” Finchem said. “I think he’s charismatic, he comes across good on the air, he’s opinionated. There are a lot of options out there. But I think he’d be good.”