USGA CEO responds to trade outrage from NBC and the US Open


USGA CEO Mike Whan tweeted a response to criticism the governing body received over the US Open’s commercial burden.

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BROOKLINE, Massachusetts. — Enough of empty tweeting.

After NBC’s Saturday broadcast from the US Open sent golf twitter in a frenzythe CEO of the USGA took Sunday morning to respond immediately.

“I’m on it!” Mike Whan wrote from his official account, responding to hundreds of posts from fans who felt the US Open broadcast showed too many commercials. “We have the best sports production team in the world here with our partner NBC Sports (Olympics, Super Bowl, etc.) and if the amount of interruptions is problematic, we will work with our partner to make it better.”

The response marked a surprising break from the norm for governing bodies, which rarely, if ever, publicly address criticism of golf’s televised product. Whan, who is at his first US Open as interim USGA chief, posted his response on Sunday morning, hours after NBC’s third-round telecast went off the air.

“More TV people here than the Super Bowl (right!), so we/USGA will work to free them up to do what they do better than anyone else,” Whan said. “This has been a great US Open and we will work to make 2023 at LACC even better!”

Whan’s comments shouldn’t have come as a surprise to NBC. According to multiple sources, stakeholders from both the USGA and NBC held talks Saturday to address negative social media reaction to the broadcast, specifically regarding commercial loading.

Advertising revenue is the biggest piece of any TV rights deal, and particularly when it comes to NBC’s deal with the USGA. In 2022, NBC is in the second year of its adopted agreement with the USGA, a deal formed after the network purchased the second half of FOX’s gargantuan USGA deal. While the financial details of NBC’s renegotiated agreement with the USGA are not public information, they are believed to pay a significant portion of the $93 million per year fee negotiated by FOX.

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For NBC, that figure marks a significant financial shortfall from the economics of a “normal” golf broadcast, meaning the network has to sell more ads than a typical week just to break even. Add in that the US Open also attracts the most advertiser interest of any USGA event, and suddenly Saturday afternoon events start to make a little more sense.

It should also be noted that from a commercial load perspective, Brookline is not significantly different from any other US Open. An NBC source confirmed that Saturday’s trade load at the US Open was no higher than in previous years. The increase in late-afternoon spots was due to a combination of editorial decisions made by NBC’s production staff, specifically to avoid missing important moments in the early afternoon.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you, the fan, have to like it. Commercials distract from the viewing experience, making it more difficult to follow, and more importantly, enjoy the action. At major golf events, that’s a (justifiable) cause for frustration.

Still, for those besieged by commercials, there is at least some good news: Your complaints have been heard. Both parties seem committed to finding a solution to provide golf fans with better streaming for years to come. And there are also reasons for optimism in the short term. As is tradition, Rolex will sponsor the final hour of Sunday’s broadcast, which will air for fans without commercials.

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James Colgan is Assistant Editor at GOLF and contributes stories to the website and magazine on a wide range of topics. He writes Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his streaming expertise on the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James, and evidently his golf game, is still thawing after four years in the snow, during which time he trained at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Before joining GOLF, James received a caddying scholarship (and a wily looper) on Long Island, where he’s from.