The 'Masters' of Their Own Domain: Augusta Dictates Terms to CBS, Advertisers, Women Too

The Masters Golf Tournament is swinging with its own fat, open pocketbook - money flying in all directions.

The Augusta National Golf Club, which runs The Masters Golf Tournament, is the only TV producer on television that dictates in incredible detail how advertising is run on its TV outlet -- even when it comes, seemingly, to hurting their financial pockets.

Most TV producers are probably amazed -- as well as teed off -- at the Augusta Golf Club's TV deal with CBS. Thinking maybe powerful producers such as Mark Burnett or David E. Kelley have the same deal as Augusta? Nope.

The Augusta Golf Club is so rich that last year after the National Organization for Women threatened to boycott The Masters' TV advertisers due to the club's discrimination against women as members, it told CBS that no advertising would run during the broadcast of the tournament.

Because it couldn't sell any advertising time, analysts speculate that CBS was compensated, possibly with a better licensing deal. In previous years, CBS was allowed to sell only four minutes of national TV advertising time - far less than the typical 10 minutes an hour.



But, CBS has come back to sell some advertising. For next year, Augusta said yes to three advertisers -- ExxonMobil Corp., International Business Machines Corp., and SBC Communications. Most TV producers' deals are simple: Producers get a flat license fee for the show; and the network gets to sell the advertising. The way Augusta treats its TV network partners, it probably thinks CBS is HBO.

Apart from the hubris, how many TV producers would willingly make their financial deal worse? Imagine Steve Bochco telling ABC, "Forget the license fee for 'NYPD Blue' this year. I'm good."

Only one other TV producer - The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences - has this kind of veto power. It can stop any TV commercial ABC runs for its Oscar broadcast. Additionally, with ABC, the Academy even prohibits one category altogether from buying TV commercials - the motion picture industry.

The Academy doesn't want to play favorites.

The Augusta Golf Club doesn't want to play favorites as well. (Except when it comes to gender, of course.) The golf club doesn't want to hurt any TV advertisers that are associated with the golf tournament.

Augusta stands by its private club status, asserting that it can restrict membership in any way it wants. Perhaps it should go one step further from the sand trap of protest concerns - and make the event more private: Don't tell anyone when the golf tournament runs, don't invite anyone to watch it live, and - most of all -- don't televise it at all.

Augusta is swinging with the wrong club.

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