SBJ/Nov. 8-14, 2010/This Week's Issue

Golf Channel set to rise, shine and talk more than golf

Trying to grab a piece of the crowded morning talk-show circuit, Golf Channel is launching a live, two-hour morning show in January.

“Morning Drive” will debut Jan. 3 from Golf Channel’s Orlando studios and run 7-9 a.m. weekdays, a time slot that now runs replays of the prior night’s “Golf Central” show.

Tom Stathakes, senior vice president of programming and production, described “Morning Drive” as a mix of golf and lifestyle, modeled on shows like MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning.”

“We will be golf centered, so we won’t forget our core audience, but we will get into things like lifestyle and travel, business and news, and we will show highlights from all sports — not just golf,” Stathakes said.

Talent for the show has not been finalized, but should be by month’s end.

Ron Furman, Comcast senior vice president of sports sales, said “Morning Drive” will offer many in-studio branding opportunities for sponsors, “be a little edgier than a straight news program” and, it’s hoped, attract an audience beyond hard-core golfers.

“We do more golf than anyone, and this show is a way to keep golf in the conversation in a way that could be a centerpiece for us,” he said.

Golf Channel, in about 83 million households, will use its own inventory and buy print and TV media to support the launch.

“Morning Drive” will be part of a “Game On” marketing platform the network is launching to drive home the point that the PGA Tour season starts immediately after the holidays with the SBS Championship from Jan. 6 to 9 — a fact lost on many who aren’t the most ardent golf fans. That kind of season-opening approach has been used by most big sports properties.

The “Game On” initiative is being supported by advertisers including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sprint. “We need to remind people that golf doesn’t start in April when they start playing again,” Stathakes said.

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