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The PGA Tour is ending its production partnership with Turner Sports and will take control of its own digital destiny starting with the 2013 season. Turner Sports (s twx) has managed the PGA Tour’s online and mobile operations since 2006.
The parting is in the “it’s about us, not them” mold. Put another way, the PGA Tour wants full control. Paul Johnson, the PGA Tour’s SVP of strategic development, digital media and entertainment, explained in the carefully crafted announcement:
With the speed in which the digital landscape is changing, we feel it is important to control all aspects of the business directly. This does not reflect upon Turner, which has done a wonderful job and has been a great partner; it is about our overall strategy regarding our fans, players, sponsors and other stakeholders, and our desire to control those elements directly out into the future.
Turner keeps its separate relationship with the PGA of America for PGA.com, managing operations and ad sales, plus its exclusive sales arrangement for advertising on the Golf section of Yahoo Sports. (Turner Sports and Entertainment Digital also has Yahoo Sports ad exclusives for NBA and NASCAR.) The PGA Tour is selling all of its own 2013 ads and will take over operations in January.
Turner Sports currently has operating and sales partnerships with NBA Digital and the NCAA for March Madness and NCAA.com. A similar deal with NASCAR was restructured to end in January but Turner Sports will continue to handle ad and sponsorship sales across the NASCAR-branded platforms with unique users rolling up into Turner’s metrics through 2016.
Turner’s short-lived partnership with Time Warner sibling SI.com ended last year.
While it’s tempting to look at this as Turner losing partners, an industry insider familiar with the situation suggested instead that Turner probably was losing money — at least on PGATour.com. Also, that the racing partnership might be more valuable without the costs of developing an managing the platforms. NASCAR bought out the remaining two years of digital rights but left its advertising because with 6.6 million monthly uniques, according to Sports Business Daily, it doesn’t have enough volume for ad sales.
What’s the difference between the NBA and NCAA deals and those with the PGA Tour and NASCAR? TV. Its TV deal with NASCAR was for a handful of mid-season races; for the PGA Tour it had some Thursday-Friday rights but not the more lucrative weekends or the majors. Neither provides the volume of TV inventory that comes from NBA.TV and season/post-season games on TNT or 60+ games of March Madness (Turner and CBS are partners for the NCAA with the former responsible for the platforms.)
More details in the release.