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CNBC drives Senior PGA b’cast deal

4-year, 33-event pact to start in 2001

NEW YORK — CNBC is betting that business junkies are also golf fans.

The financial news network announced Tuesday that it had signed a four-year deal with the PGA Tour to televise 33 Senior PGA Tour events domestically, beginning in 2001.

All “Senior PGA Tour on CNBC” events will air either live or taped at 6-8 p.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays, a significant increase in coverage over this year’s 24 Senior PGA Tour events carried by ESPN.

The golf coverage will replace paid programming, which CNBC airs on weekends. “We have been migrating away from paid programming. This gives us a great big lump to take out,” said Bill Bolster, president of CNBC.

Mission remains same

In a conference call, Bob Wright, NBC prexy and CEO, made it clear that the agreement does not mark a giant shift in CNBC’s mission. “CNBC is not a sports network and will not be a sports network,” Wright said.

The deal does raise the question of whether cable operators, who committed to carry CNBC as a financial news net, will protest when sports are injected into the programming format. “They committed to carry a business network, not the Golf Channel,” a source said.

But, CNBC said it does not anticipate problems in that arena. “It is not our ambition to put the Golf Channel or ESPN out of business,” a network spokesman said.

In fact, Bolster said NBC Cable prexy David Zaslav has already cleared the idea with cable operators.

CNBC announced in December it will air portions of the Summer Olympics on weeknights and weekends.

As evidence of CNBC viewers’ strong interest in golf, CNBC cites a December 1999 survey on CNBC.com that found 96% of respondents said they enjoyed watching golf events. “The partnership is really a merger of two extremely compatible audiences,” said Tim Finchem, PGA Tour commissioner.

Pax plays part

As part of the agreement with NBC, Pax TV will carry early round Senior PGA coverage Fridays. NBC’s strategic investment in Pax allows CNBC to utilize their channel slot in cable and satellite programming lineups at times when CNBC business day programming cannot be preempted. CNBC tested out this strategy last February during the Tucson Open.

“The Senior PGA Tour on CNBC” will be produced by PGA Tour Prods. The 30-minute weekly highlights program, “Inside the Senior PGA Tour” will move to CNBC beginning in 2001. It will air three times weekly and continue to be produced by PGA Tour Prods. On-air talent for the Senior PGA Tour events will be determined by CNBC and NBC Sports and announced at a later date.

Meanwhile, the regular PGA Tour will continue to air on ESPN.

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