Lightbox Sport inks golf deal with TVNZ

Old-school and new-school broadcasters expand their partnership.

Lightbox Sport has inked a deal with TVNZ that will see a mix of PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events shown free-to-air on TV One and TVNZ Ondemand.

The first of these events is the Shell Houston Open (PGA Tour) with TV ONE and then TVNZ OnDemand screening highlights of the third and fourth rounds on Sunday April 5 and Monday April 6.

Lightbox Sport MD Tim Martin earlier told NBR he was shopping a partnership deal to both TVNZ and MediaWorks.

Mr Martin would not say if he was seeking cash, promotion for his company's more comprehensive paid online coverage, or a mix of both.

The state broadcaster had the inside running. Lightbox Sport and TVNZ already have a similar partnership based around English Premier League soccer.

Lightbox Sport is the 50:50 joint venture formed by Spark-owned Lightbox and Coliseum Sports Media, backed by $750 million NBR Rich Lister Peter Cooper. All of Coliseum's assets, IP and staff have been rolled into Lightbox Sport.

The deal comes after the NZ Open, whose rights are held by Sky TV. Controversially, the pay TV broadcaster carried only limited coverage. At the time Mr Martin said even if Coliseum held the local rights, and had the estimated $500,000 to shoot it, "We couldn’t film the tournament because we have no idea how to do that. We do not yet have that skill set." New golf partner TVNZ could fill that gap.

This TVNZ free-to-air coverage of PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events will run to the end of June and include PGA tour coverage of the Byron Nelson Championship; the Memorial from Muirfield; Fed Ex St Jude Classic and the Travellers Championship; and the Lotte Championship, Swinging Skirts Classic and Kingsmill Championship from the LPGA tour.

Lightbox Sport launched its PGA Tour Live and World Golf Pass streaming video services in January.

A $19.90 a month Tour Card subscription gives you access to both online channels. Between them they feature the US PGA Tour (which numbers three Kiwis this season — Steven Alker, Danny Lee and Tim Wilkinson), plus the LPGA Tour (including Lydia Ko); the  European Tour; Ryder Cup; US PGA Championship; Asian Tour and the EurAsia Cup.

Neither Spark nor Coliseum would talk about the sums involved in the joint venture, which sees former Coliseum staff re-locating to Spark's headquarters.

However, at Spark's half-year result briefing, it said it had increased its launch-year budget for Lightbox from $20 million to $35 million. Beyond digesting Coliseum, Spark has also made its entertainment service, Lightbox, free to all 600,000+ of its broadband customers. Spark says its long term plan is to integrate Lightbox and Lightbox sport under a single platform.

Mr Martin, who last year lost a bidding war for Formula One rights to Sky TV despite a $6 million bid, says Lightbox Sport has big plans, and will chase rights to A-list sports.