Finchem spoke on a myriad of topics; including the strength of the tour, title sponsors, security, the Senior PGA Tour and the Buy.Com Tour.
The PGA Tour is stronger than it has ever been, said Finchem. And over the next five years, it will be stronger still.
Finchem stated that television ratings have continued to rise, some 7 percent over 2000, 11 percent over 1999. He added that the tours fan base has also increased from around 96 million Americans to almost 110 million over the last twelve months.
In July, the tour signed a television deal worth nearly $1 billion. Since, there has been a growing concern over tournament sponsorship, as the tour looks for title sponsors to commit some $5 to $8 million each of the next four years.
Recently, Canon, Advil and Air Canada have ended their sponsorship associations with the tour.
We just sent out contracts to our tournament organizations in the last 30 days, Finchem said. We have just begun, in the last 30 days, specific discussions with our title sponsors for the next four years.
We have already gotten commitments of renewal for well over half of those sponsors. There is no question in my mind that, regardless of the recession, that our tournaments will be fully sponsored. I think I can say that unequivocally.
Finchem cited for his confidence, There are caps on the networks as to what they can charge our title sponsors for television over the next four years. This is a key ingredient of our negotiations. It assures that the cost to our title sponsors is going to be very reasonable in the coming years.
Also, we have a stronger fan base. We have higher ratings and we have (comparatively) a very reasonable cost to pass on to our title sponsors.
Thanks to the new television agreement, next years prize money is expected to go from about $180 to $200 million.
Finchem added, I think it is not unreasonable to assume that our prize money would grow to somewhere upwards of $300 million by the end of the (four-year) cycle.
Finchem also addressed one of the primary issues in recent weeks - player and fan security.
We have taken steps in a number of areas because of reevaluations (after Sept. 11) that have gone on, and are going on with respect to security. The ones that we have announced include the fact that we will not allow, on property, backpacks or packages of any significant size and we will search smaller parcels and carry-on things into the tournament specifically. Those procedures are being implemented today.
They are not being implemented at a level of sophistication that we are comfortable with yet, but we are getting there. We also will have, certainly starting the first part of this next season, significant increase (of uniformed police officers) in the ingress and egress at secured areas for players.
Another topic was that of how to stimulate further interest in the Senior PGA Tour. One of the issues brought up was that of lowering the age limit from 50 to perhaps 45 or 48.
I am going to recommend to our board, that it is important that we increase the percentage of players who play (on the Senior Tour), who played full careers on the PGA Tour. And there are some ways to do that. But thats only one part of the puzzle.
I hope to have something specific to say about a dozen different things here at the end of the year. But I do not envision an age change being a part of that.
As for the Buy.Com Tour, Finchem said, As you know, the Buy.Com Company has filed a lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Unfortunately, their business has failed or is in a failing position. Well obviously transition to a new sponsor as early as the first quarter of 2002, as late as but not later than the first quarter of 2003. I hope to have more to say about that in a few weeks as well.
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