Sports For U.S. TV Groups: Wherever You Can Get It, Even Outside The U.S.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Or perhaps one needs to take their swings at the plate. Whatever sports metaphor suits your fancy, perhaps that is what Discovery Inc. has in mind in starting up a golf TV streaming service

Discovery has struck an exclusive multi-year global content partnership with Tiger Woods for GolfTV, a streaming service set to launch in January via a $2 billion, 12-year deal with the PGA Tour. Much of the programming will center around Woods practice and instructional videos, behind-the-scenes video, and commentary.

But the live and on-demand video service is only available outside the U.S. -- at least initially. In the U.S. Discovery says it “has the opportunity to execute an owned or partner distribution strategy.” Traditional TV PGA tour event programming in the U.S. airs on CBS and NBC.

This is not Discovery's first entry into sports. In 2012, it took a 20% stake in Eurosport, the big pan-European sports TV network. Two years later it moved up to a 51% majority stake. Then in 2015, it acquired France's TF1 remaining stake, owning the European TV group outright.



Eurosport is heavy into European football programming, as well as professional road cycling (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a Espana) and big tennis events (French Open, Australian Open, Wimbledon)  In 2015, Eurosport also gain the pan-European rights to winter and summer Olympics in 2018 and 2024.

This comes as Discovery, Viacom, AMC Networks, and other U.S. cable network owners -- who don't have U.S. sports rights -- have had a more difficult time securing new carriage deals for its networks when it comes to new virtual multichannel video program distributors (vMVPDs).

Why? Because, according to analysts, they lack big sports-programming and/or ownership in traditional TV stations, seemingly must-have pieces for many TV consumers.

In this environment, these cable TV network groups help support the launch of one of these new services, Philo, which comes with a lower-than-average monthly fee for consumers -- a 43-channel plan for $16 per month and a 55-channel plan for $20 per month -- all because it has eschewed big TV networks with sports programming.

Discovery's effort around golf programming outside the U.S. -- and Eurosport as well -- might be seen as a way to keep one foot in the sports arena, perhaps as a segue into possible bigger U.S.-based sports programming deals in the future.

Could other cable network groups be considering a similar move?

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