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Big increase in US TV rights

The PGA Tour has agreed to new deals with network television for a reported $850 million over four years.

The new packages with ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, USA and The Golf Channel run from 2003 until 2006 and represent about a 45 percent increase from the current contracts, according to industry sources.

"The strong interest in PGA Tour programming from our television partners was very gratifying," said commissioner Tim Finchem in a statement released by the PGA Tour. "The very positive image of our sport, coupled with the strong growth in fan interest in Tour players and competitions, provided an excellent framework for mutually beneficial discussions."

ABC, CBS and NBC have all retained significant packages, although each network has lost or gained different tournaments. ESPN and USA Network will broadcast all early-round coverage in a two-network arrangement, while The Golf Channel will be the exclusive home for the Tour.

ABC will average about 18 events per year and will add the Nissan Open (Los Angeles) to its schedule, as well as the Phoenix Open in 2004. It will also remain the home for three of the World Golf Championships.

CBS will average about 17 events each year and will add the St. Jude Classic (Memphis) and Compaq Classic (New Orleans) to its roster in 2004. It will also retain the WGC-NEC Invitational.

NBC, which already has the USGA package, will average about five PGA Tour events per year. The network will continue its tradition of coverage of the "Florida Swing," which includes The Players Championship, in March.

There had been talk of moving The Players Championship, the unofficial "Fifth Major," from its slot in March to May, which would have given the sport a marquee tournament every month from April through August.


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