ESPN is reportedly close to finalizing a deal with the emerging golf league TGL (The Golf League), which is set to launch next year and is led by golf stars Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. The details of the deal, including its value and duration, have yet to be finalized, but negotiations are expected to be concluded in the coming weeks. It remains unclear how many of TGL’s matches will be broadcasted on ESPN’s cable networks or its streaming platforms. This potential partnership holds significance for both ESPN and the business of golf as ESPN explores commercial partnerships and options for its media networks, while the golf industry adapts to changing consumer preferences and new formats of competition.
The discussions between ESPN and TGL come at a critical juncture for both entities. ESPN, as part of the Walt Disney empire, is under scrutiny as CEO Bob Iger evaluates the future of its media networks. Iger has indicated the possibility of selling some of its linear television channels and pursuing commercial partnerships for ESPN. Additionally, the shift from traditional television to streaming for live sports broadcasts seems inevitable. Meanwhile, professional golf is facing its own challenges, such as the proposed merger between the US-based PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf breakaway tour. Amidst this backdrop, Woods and McIlroy announced the launch of TGL in August 2022. TGL features a new format of golf competition with six teams competing in primetime Monday-night broadcasts, held in an arena environment with a virtual simulator course.
The format has garnered support from notable figures such as Fenway Sports Group, hedge fund titan Steve Cohen, Home Depot founder Arthur Blank, and Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian, all of whom have purchased a team. The PGA Tour is also a partner of TGL, with Woods and McIlroy having majority ownership through their investment vehicle, TMRW Sports. As the media landscape evolves and consumer preferences shift towards streaming, the potential partnership between ESPN and TGL holds significant implications for both parties and the future of golf broadcasting.