Few holes in PGA's TV deal

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Wednesday's news that the PGA Tour was moving exclusively to NBC, CBS and The Golf Channel starting next year doesn't mean you won't find golf - or even the top male golfers - only on those networks.

Golf's four majors - the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. and British opens - aren't under PGA Tour control, so their television deals exist separately. ABC, not part of the new PGA Tour deal, has the British Open through 2009, which includes its corporate sibling, ESPN, for early round coverage. ESPN also maintains early round rights to the U.S. Open through 2008, though NBC has the tournament signed up through 2014.

CBS owns rights to the PGA Championship through 2011. The Masters awards its rights on a yearly basis, but CBS has carried the event for 50 years. Thursday and Friday coverage airs on USA Network.

(ESPN and ESPN2 will televise 10 to 12 LPGA Tour events through 2009.)

OK, now write all of that down, because I'm sure to forget it and may need to check with you.

During the news conference to announce the new, six-year TV contract, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said: "We have a streamlined set of relationships with NBC and CBS having all the weekends. It really relaxes and reinforces the continuity we can now provide to our fans.

"On the cable side with our Thursday and Friday coverage every week of the year with The Golf Channel, it really changes the dynamic of being able to set up our weekend coverage with the combination of our cable coverage leading into our network coverage."

Congratulations to whomever at the PGA Tour suggested the use of "streamlined" to spin the lack of an ABC or ESPN presence in the new package. As Zero Mostel - or was it Phil Silvers? - said to a centurion in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, "Smartly done."

John Wildhack, a senior vice president of ESPN, told The New York Times: "The right deal wasn't there to be made. We would only make a profitable deal with a schedule we desired."

The Golf Channel, which landed a 15-year contract to carry weekday rounds of PGA Tour events, doesn't have the reach of ESPN or USA Network, so the tour is giving up some visibility - about 20 million homes' worth, according to the Associated Press.

Puckish

NBC broadcasts its first NHL action since the 1994 All-Star Game tomorrow at 2 p.m. (Colorado Avalanche-Philadelphia Flyers, WBAL/Channel 11 and WRC/Channel 4). Some things to look for:

NBC is putting a reporter "inside the glass," which places him between the benches. "He'll be able to see things from rink level ... the changes, the subtleties, the conversations from the bench and give you a different perspective," Sam Flood, NBC's coordinating producer, said in a conference call this week.

Goalie cam. You've seen it. You love it.

The pre-game show will originate from New York, with the Rockefeller Center ice rink in the background. The recently retired Mark Messier will be a guest analyst tomorrow.

Flood explained NBC's coverage philosophy as: "We've got to take care of the hockey fan first. We will make sure that everyone is welcome to the show, but we're never going to insult the hockey fan."

(No insulting the hockey fan? There goes any shot at the return of Peter Puck.)

"The people that wake up at 4 in the morning to drive their kids to the rink," Flood said, "we want to be a destination for them."

Not to argue or anything, but speaking as someone who used to wake up at 4 in the morning to drive my kid to the rink, by 2 in the afternoon, I wanted my destination to be a quiet place to lie down with no TV on.

Ravens No. 1

They have to share the honor with the Indianapolis Colts, but the Ravens' opener this season in an ESPN Sunday night game was the most-watched program of the year on basic cable, drawing 11.25 million viewers. The Ravens' Christmas night game with the Minnesota Vikings ranked No. 10, with 8.76 million.

ray.frager@baltsun.com

Read Ray Frager's blog at baltimoresun.com/mediumwell

Top-rated sports

Highest-rated sports programming for Baltimore for Jan. 4-10 (ratings measure the percentage of television households watching a program):

Program Date Ch. Rtg.

Steelers-Bengals 1/8 13 19.8

Panthers-Giants 1/8 45 18.9

Redskins-Bucs 1/7 2 15.1

Jaguars-Pats 1/7 2 14.0

Rose Bowl 1/4 2 12.6

NFL pre-game 1/8 13 8.5

NFL pre-game 1/7 2 4.2

Maryland-Miami 1/7 54 3.7

NFL pre-game 1/8 45 3.3

WWE Raw 1/9 USA 3.1

[ Nielsen ratings courtesy of WBAL-TV]

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