That was the situation I was expecting to face this weekend as I sat down on my comfy leather couch. I took a sip of my tasty beverage and powered up the old boob tube. I knew that the LPGA's 2nd Major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, had just started. I flipped the channels to find the television coverage. NBC - nada. ABC - zilch. CBS - the Barclays Classic. What's the dealio?
I checked my trusty TV Guide. My worst fears were confirmed. None of the major networks were televising the McDonald's LPGA! Instead, the Golf Channel was covering all four rounds. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the Golf Channel. However, I had to drop it from my cable service after it moved into the premium sports tier and pushed my monthly cable bill over a Benjamin.
Regardless, I was just dumbfounded that no major broadcast network picked up the final rounds of an LPGA major at a minimum. Since I had nothing else to do, I jumped onto the internet to find out the scoop. According to the article, "The McDonald's turns to TGC" by Jay A. Coffin in the April 18, 2006 issue of Golfweek:
The McDonald's LPGA Championship will receive four more hours of coverage this year but it will not be shown on network television for the first time in nearly two decades. After 15 years on CBS, the tournament announced April 17 a three-year deal with The Golf Channel, making it the first major championship on the LPGA broadcast solely by the network.Had the major networks simply lost interest in the LPGA? Apparently not. According to "Major savings?" by Ron Sirak in the May 26, 2006 issue of Golf World:
Jon Miller, NBC's senior vice president of sports, said when NBC learned CBS was giving up the McDonald's (because tournament officials wouldn't agree to the network's request for a 3 p.m. Sunday finish), he called the LPGA and told commissioner Carolyn Bivens his network would like to take over the telecast. But Miller says Bivens told him McDonald's officials had already decided to go with The Golf Channel; when Miller pressed her on it, Bivens told him the decision was "out of the LPGA's hands."Unfriggin'believable. Sure, it's cheaper to broadcast an event on The Golf Channel, but the revenue opportunities are a lot less as well. Also, with the emergence of new and exciting young female golfers such as Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, etc., isn't this the best time for the LPGA to invest in the tour's exposure? These future golf stars deserve the spotlight of broadcast network coverage to capitalize on a new wave of viewer interest. The Golf Channel's miniscule audience just doesn't cut it.
Why would any tournament, particularly a major, opt to give up broadcast network coverage? Money is the most obvious answer. A source familiar with the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said McDonald's saved $1.2 million a year by going to The Golf Channel instead of a network. Unlike the PGA Tour, the LPGA buys network time for its tournament broadcasts, then sells the commercials itself to try to recoup its cost. The source told Golf World it would have cost $1.5 million to put the McDonald's on CBS (or, presumably, NBC), but just $300,000 on The Golf Channel.
How could the LPGA let this happen? Someone clearly dropped the ball big-time. Ultimately, Bivens must take responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. If her blunders persist, she will lose the support of the players, including one that's not yet a member but may be key to the LPGA's future: Michelle Wie.
Many people have been critical of Michelle Wie's limited LPGA schedule. The fact of the matter is that Wie is not an LPGA member and is limited to playing a maximum number of eight LPGA events this year. Not only is Wie playing as many LPGA events that she can, but she actually entered a much more difficult U.S. Open Sectional qualifier to be able to play in the McDonald's. She could have easily skipped the McDonald's to play in a much easier U.S. Open Sectional qualifier that would have almost guaranteed her chances to make history at Winged Foot. That's a pretty big sacrifice. How much more could Wie do for the LPGA? Outside of maxing out LPGA events, Wie plays in the best events that she is invited, whether it be a men's or women's event. Considering that Wie lives in Hawaii, it makes a whole lot of sense.
If Carolyn Bivens continues to penny-pinch the LPGA into obscurity, maybe Wie would be better off to remain a part-timer on the LPGA. Why play on a tour where only a fraction of the population can view it? I wouldn't blame Wie if she were to bypass the LPGA altogether. I'd be in favor if it meant that I could watch her more often. Bivens needs to increase the LPGA's visibility, not lessen it. If she can't grasp this obvious and simple concept, she is totally clueless and needs to step down immediately. After only ten months as the queen bee, Bivens has already seen the departure of seven senior LPGA executives, two of them she had hired. Asked why she bolted from her post as the senior vice president of golf, Deb Richard responded, "I've lost faith in the leadership." Let me translate that cryptic message for you, "Carolyn Bivens is running the LPGA into the ground and I'd better bail out now before the $hit really hits the fan." Ty Votaw, you are sorely missed.
Labels: Michelle Wie