Yes. Amid a Pandemic, Golf Fans Must Pay to Watch (Much of) the PGA Championship

ESPN+ PGA Championship
ESPN will broadcast 35 hours of the PGA Championship, but 17 of those hours will be through ESPN+ - a paid subscription service.

The emails and texts poured in this morning – from readers, friends and fellow gamblers (ok, mostly gamblers). They all wanted to know the same thing: ‘Where can I watch the PGA Championship?’

After some research, it appears – unlike the other majors, the PGA Championship, via ESPN+, is streaming its early-round coverage through a paid subscription service, ONLY.

Those expecting to fire up the DraftKings app, alongside a stream of the PGA, had to pull out the plastic, and pay for a month (more when they forget to cancel) of woke sports TV.

ESPN’s Early-Round Coverage
Rd 1 – 10:00AM-4:00PM (ESPN+)
Rd 1 – 4:00PM-10:00PM (ESPN)
Rd 2 – 10:00AM-4:00PM (ESPN+)
Rd 2 – 4:00PM-10:00PM (ESPN)
Rd 3 – 11:00AM-1:00PM (ESPN+)
Rd 3 – 1:00PM-4:00PM (ESPN)
Rd 4 – 10:00AM-12:00PM (ESPN+)
Rd 4 – 12:00PM-3:00PM (ESPN)

ESPN’s Featured Group Coverage
Rd 1 – 10:00AM-10:00PM (ESPN+)
Rd 2 – 10:00AM-10:00PM (ESPN+)
Rd 3 – 11:00AM-10:00PM (ESPN+)
Rd 4 – 10:00AM-9:00PM (ESPN+)

When they made this deal with ESPN, amid a booming economy – in late 2018, it played into golf’s haughty country-club perception, but it was at least understandable. But, for the PGA and ESPN, to maintain its paywall, amid a pandemic – where golf fans worldwide are struggling financially, is the epitome of tone-deaf.

ESPN’s Burke Magnus, head of programming at the failing sports network, succinctly exhibited this aloofness in a press release, bizarrely claiming – that by burying half the broadcast hours in a little-watched, subscription-only streaming service – it will somehow thrill golf fans, and increase the sport’s popularity.

This agreement is going to be great for golf fans and is significant for ESPN and ESPN+,” said Magnus, Executive Vice President of Programming and Scheduling. “The PGA will bolster ESPN’s diverse collection of big events and deliver another world-class competition to the ESPN+ platform and its growing audience. We look forward to working with the PGA of America to help increase the sport’s popularity.”

Absolute doublespeak. Exemplified.

PRO tip: By offering ESPN+ on a free 7-day type promo plan, tied into COVID-19 and whatnot, ESPN and the PGA could have absolutely cleaned up in terms of positive spin and long-term audience gains. Instead they will get a burst of what amounts to hostage subscribers who will cancel on Sunday night.


  1. Yeah, especially when golf is on the decline. Yes, Tiger is playing, which helps viewership for now. But on the whole, how putting golf behind a paywall will help is unbeknownst to me. I guess they’ll see this strategies effectiveness when they get the audience analysis for the Cornhole Championships thereafter. You’ll get more volume from a bottle of shampoo. That much, I promise you. Please say hello to TG for me.


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