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 COMMENT

  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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