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ESPN drives PGA Championship pact, boosting linear, streaming portfolios

ESPN (US) will succeed TNT (US) as the cable home to the PGA Championship, starting in 2020.

ESPN Inc.'s 11-year deal with the PGA of America provides for expansive coverage of the major golf tournament, both on its cable network and direct-to-consumer service ESPN+, and comes in conjunction with a renewal by CBS Corp. through 2030. Turner Sports and TNT have been the cable rights holders to the PGA Championship since 1991. ESPN was the tournament's original cable home, as it aired the first two rounds of the event in 1982 and 1983 and from 1985-1990.

The pact for the PGA Championship is the latest in a string of deals by ESPN Inc. — mixed martial arts circuit UFC, Top Rank Boxing and Serie A, Italy's top soccer league, among them — that encompass both linear coverage and add plenty of content to ESPN+, the subscription streaming service that launched April 12 and surpassed the 1 million-subscriber plateau last month.

Together, CBS and ESPN will supply more than 175 hours of combined coverage of the PGA Championship, with the broadcast network presenting weekend afternoon coverage, while ESPN and ESPN+ will carry the Thursday and Friday rounds, as well as weekend rounds before CBS comes on the air.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, gives the programmers the rights to the sport's first two of four majors, with both also presenting The Masters. Beginning with the 2019 event, the PGA Championship will shift into May from its traditional August scheduling.

Even as CBS televises the third and final rounds, ESPN+ will tee off live coverage from featured holes and playing groups. The streaming service will also air practice rounds before the tournament, press conferences and driving range interviews. ESPN will have in-progress highlight rights and post-round highlight rights for ESPN+, ESPN.com and the ESPN App.

The new deal also includes six hours of coverage of the PGA Junior League Championship, a three-day event during October in which eight teams of 13-year-old players compete.

CBS, which will extend its presentation of the tournament to 40 consecutive years at the conclusion of the deal's term in 2030 and 47 years overall, will serve up an additional hour of on-air coverage on Saturday and Sunday. Moreover, CBS Sports Network (US) will offer on-site ancillary fare, while content will also surface on digital and social platforms.

This marks the first major deal for CBS Sports since Joe Ianniello, president and acting CEO, assumed the helm, following the ouster of longtime CBS leader Les Moonves, amid sexual misconduct allegations.

The PGA of America will retain the rights to PGA.com and produce the web and mobile app experiences.