Discovery buys Golf Digest and deepens PGA Tour tie-up to enhance OTT product
By Simon Ward
Discovery, the US media giant, has today expanded its golf content offering and consolidated its burgeoning commitment to the sport by acquiring Golf Digest, the renowned publishing title, to be integrated with GolfTV, the international over-the-top service, while doubling down on a partnership with USA's PGA Tour.
In buying Golf Digest from publishing group Condé Nast in a deal reported to be worth around $30 million, Discovery, whose other assets include pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport, is looking to strengthen its connection with people who watch and play golf worldwide.
Golf Digest content will be added to GolfTV output that already includes live coverage of the PGA Tour, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the US Masters, in selected markets outside USA, and content featuring USA’s 15-time major champion Tiger Woods and top Italian player and reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari.
Discovery claims the move creates the largest digital golf media business in USA and a platform that serves fans across the board with access to features including instructional videos, equipment advice, course rankings, travel destinations and online bookings.
It also strengthens the relationship between the PGA Tour and Golf Digest, which has been an official marketing partner of the Tour for 13 years.
Condé Nast, which bought Golf Digest in 2001, had been seeking a buyer for the publication for the past nine months, and while there is said to have been interest from other media groups, including US broadcaster NBC, Discovery was favoured in part because of its plans to create a digital hub for the sport.
Jerry Tarde will remain editor-in-chief of Golf Digest, and is taking on an additional role as global head of strategy and content of Discovery Golf, reporting to the unit’s president and general manager Alex Kaplan.
In addition, Discovery is deepening its relationship with the PGA Tour via a combined content and advertising sales platform that will include Golf Digest, and enable brands to reach fans across the various media properties.
The Golf Digest sales team will continue to be responsible for advertising sales for a transition period until the Discovery-PGA Tour sales integration is complete.
With the acquisition of the publication, Discovery is getting access to a property that claims 60 million video views, 4.8 million readers, 4.8 million digital unique users and 2.2 million social media followers per month.
GolfTV launched on the back of a 12-year, $2-billion international deal (excluding USA) between Discovery and the PGA Tour entailing a new OTT offering and the distribution of multi-platform rights to the Tour, including linear rights
The European Tour and Ladies European Tour have since been added to GolfTV in multi-year deals although, as with the PGA Tour, the rights acquired vary from territory to territory and platform to platform, and kick in at different points because of existing deals in many markets.
Speaking of the new acquisition, David Zaslav, the president and chief executive of Discovery, Inc, said: “Golf Digest is a world-class brand that has become the ‘go-to’ authority for millions of golf enthusiasts, professional players and global advertisers. It’s a natural strategic fit with Discovery’s goal to be the leading golf media platform in the world. Through our investments with the PGA TOUR, the European Tour and our partnership with Tiger Woods, we wanted to bolster GOLFTV’s international offerings with Golf Digest’s award-winning journalism, broad consumer reach and deep content library while also creating the largest U.S. digital golf business.
“[Commissioner] Jay Monahan and the PGA TOUR have been great partners and we are excited to expand our mutual vision to bring these amazing players and all of their terrific play to more people on more devices in every market in the world.”
Rick Anderson, the chief media officer of the PGA Tour, said: “We’re thrilled to deepen our partnership with Discovery, as well as Golf Digest, which has been an official marketing partner of the PGA TOUR since 2006. By combining our assets in the U.S., we’re now able to offer the most robust digital content and product offering for fans, golfers and TOUR partners. The new PGA TOUR / Golf Digest digital network will be the single largest golf network offering unrivaled breadth and depth of content across platforms.”
Discovery believes its investment in golf is opportune given the growing popularity of the sport in various international markets and the return to top form of superstar Woods who won last month’s Masters at Augusta National, his first major victory in 11 years.
Speaking about GolfTV at the announcement of Discovery’s first quarter results this month, Zaslav said: “We’re off to a terrific start. The sport of golf is on fire globally, and our timing couldn’t be better. Though still early and in beta, we are seeing real signs of traction in users on GolfTV, both paid and registered, especially in countries with local heroes, like Japan and Italy, and in markets where we've taken advantage of Discovery's local presence."