Golf’s getting an event that sounds a whole lot like boxing, and it’s one that shows how massively scaled media companies can use that scale to their advantage. Turner, part of what’s now Warner Media (formerly Time Warner, renamed following AT&T’s acquisition of that company), has picked up worldwide rights to a head-to-head 18-hole Thanksgiving weekend golf clash between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson with a $9 million prize on the line. They’ll be producing plenty of coverage of that, and they’re going to distribute it as a pay-per-view event, through both B/R Live (Turner’s streaming service) as well as DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse (AT&T’s satellite and cable services), and they say they’ll offer it to other cable and satellite providers. Oh, and there’s going to be a whole lot of coverage of this on AT&T/Turner properties. Here’s more on that from the release:
“The iconic Tiger Woods and five-time Major Champion Phil Mickelson are generational talents who have transcended the game of golf and their rivalry continues to be one of the most compelling in sports,” said David Levy, President of Turner. “This one-of-a-kind, winner-take-all matchup provides a great opportunity to show fans the benefits of AT&T and WarnerMedia coming together. For the first time since AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner (now WarnerMedia), Turner, DirecTV and HBO will present a multi-faceted presentation of the live event and accompanying content across a vast array of platforms.”
Live pay-per-view coverage of the event will be distributed through Turner’s B/R Live, the company’s new premium live sports streaming service, AT&T’s DIRECTV, AT&T U-verse, and will be offered to other on-demand platforms.
HBO Sports and its groundbreaking 18-time Sports Emmy ® Award-winning 24/7 reality franchise will capture all the excitement leading up to the match.
Bleacher Report and its wildly-popular House of Highlights, which recently surpassed 10 million followers on Instagram, will offer comprehensive highlights and behind-the-scenes content.
Turner’s TNT will also televise programming with select content from the event in the weeks following the live competition.
Turner International will facilitate distribution of live PPV access to the event outside the U.S.
Here’s Woods’ account announcing it on Twitter (and tagging a Mickelson account that was created just Wednesday, which later responded):
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) August 22, 2018
So, yeah, if anyone out there was wondering why media companies are going after scale (as with the AT&T-Time Warner deal, the Disney-Fox deal and more), this is pretty good proof of how you can use it. While there’s presumably significant interest in a Tiger-Phil head-to-head duel (even if this is probably a decade after the optimal time for it, Tiger finishing second at the PGA Championship this month has even more viewers than usual still interested in him), Thanksgiving weekend would normally be a pretty tough sell for this, giving the amounts of travel going on then and the well-established NFL and college football games then. But it certainly helps when you can bring AT&T, DirecTV, HBO, TNT, Bleacher Report, B/R Live and more together to promote something.
Of course, this is going to be far from a standard golf event. Having two players go head-to-head for 18 holes is pretty unusual outside of international tournaments, especially so when it’s well-known players like Woods and Mickelson. And the release mentions that there could be side bets here, saying “As part of the live event, both Woods and Mickelson will selectively make side-challenges against one another during the match. For instance, Woods or Mickelson could raise the stakes by challenging the other to a long-drive, closest-to-the-pin or similar competition during a hole as they play their match, with money being donated to the winning golfer’s charity of choice.” So the whole novelty here may prove an attraction. We’ll see how it goes. But it’s certainly nice for AT&T to be able to bring so many of their content and distribution channels to bear for a single event, and that should definitely help boost this event.