CNBC, Pax TV Nab Senior Golf

CNBC will add more sports to its business-oriented programming lineup with its acquisition last week of 33 Senior Professional Golfers' Association Tour events.

But network executives said CNBC would not make a habit of competing against ESPN-the incumbent Senior Tour event rights-holder-for event rights.

Beginning in 2001, CNBC will air up to 33 Senior PGA Tour events, about a 25 percent increase over ESPN's 24-event schedule. All events will air either live or on a same-day tape basis Saturdays and Sundays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.

"The new Senior PGA Tour lineup on CNBC will provide not only more events, but also significantly less overlap with regularly scheduled PGA Tour telecasts," Finchem said.

Supplementing CNBC's coverage, Pax TV will telecast early round tournament play on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., or 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. outside of the Eastern time zone. NBC owns 32 percent of the family-oriented programming service.

Earlier last month, NBC said Pax TV would also air U.S. Olympics Team trials provided by NBC, as well as delayed versions of NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.

"This is another way in which our programming lineup is being broadened for our viewers," Pax TV programming president Bill Scott said.

Finchem said he decided to go with business-oriented CNBC rather than 24-hour sports network ESPN because CNBC's viewer demographics more closely match those of the SPGA.

CNBC president Bill Bolster referred to a CNBC survey revealing that 65 percent of its audience members were either interested in, watched, or played golf. CNBC already posts updated PGA-tournament leader boards on

"It made sense from the beginning. CNBC and golf have a terrific back-and-forth relationship," Bolster said. "The business-day audience of CNBC is obviously upscale and extremely interactive."

"This partnership is really a merger of two extremely compatible audiences-the golf audience and the business audience," Finchem added.

CNBC and NBC will provide significant promotion for the tour. Both networks will provide a combined 50 promos per week, while spending additional funds outside of the networks to promote upcoming telecasts.

"The strategic relationship between NBC, CNBC and Pax TV allows us to capture the best consistent airtimes and to cross-promote effectively between those two carriers, which allows us to have a better opportunity to enhance the ability of our audience to find us," Finchem said.

While Bolster is hoping the SPGA package can generate a 0.6 rating, he said a greater indication of success would be the advertiser response to the programming, as well as the brand-extension opportunities derived for the network at PGA events.

The Senior PGA agreement marks the second major sports programming deal for CNBC. The network and sister cable service MSNBC will carry an alternative feed to NBC's Summer Olympic Games coverage later this year, although only a handful of MSOs have agreed to pay a fee to receive the programming. Pax TV will also provide Olympic trials coverage.

Despite the added sports hours, Bolster said, the network has no plans to significantly increase sports programming. "CNBC is not a sports network, and it won't be a sports network-it's not a direction we're taking," he added.

Bolster did say the tour events would eliminate some weekend paid-programming hours.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.