SBJ/January 2-8, 2012/Media

NBC Sports to use ‘Golf Central’ as a regular pregame show for PGA Tour coverage

Golf Channel’s “Golf Central” will add show dates to NBC Sports this year to give the network a pregame show before its Saturday and Sunday coverage of PGA Tour tournaments for the first time on a regular basis.

NBC experimented with a “Golf Central” pregame show prior to its coverage of the Tour Championship in September and found advertisers and viewers receptive. Most importantly, NBC concluded the additional 30 minutes of coverage wouldn’t cannibalize the viewing audience, even though it aired at the same time as Golf Channel’s tour coverage.

“Golf Central” broadcast on-site from the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
Photo by: MARK ASHMAN / GOLF CHANNEL
That, and the ability to add golf-based advertising inventory, prompted NBC to move forward with more editions of “Golf Central” this year, deepening the tie between NBC and Golf Channel, now that they are under the same ownership.

“Advertisers are buying to align themselves with content, regardless of how it’s distributed,” said Seth Winter, NBC Sports Group’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Whether it’s broadcast, cable or digital, advertisers align with content agnostically. We’ve quickly responded to what the market wants with this golf vertical. It makes golf sponsorship that much easier for the client and the agency and we’re able to go into the marketplace with a unified shot.”

NBC’s expanded coverage will run prior to the majority of its 10 tour events on both weekend days, but the network isn’t sure yet if it will carry the pregame show before all of the tournaments.

NBC’s tournament coverage begins in late February with the Accenture Match Play and continues into the Florida swing with four more tournaments. The jewel of the PGA Tour package is the Players Championship in May.

Winter said those tournaments, plus the U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup this year and Golf Channel content, has provided the golf sales team with new opportunities to sell across multiple platforms, including GolfChannel.com. And with the need to sell across platforms has come the need for more golf inventory, which the new “Golf Central” on NBC provides.

The majority of golf’s ad inventory is dominated by event title sponsors and the PGA Tour’s official marketing partners, so new inventory presents opportunities for non-tour partners such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Chase and Sprint to get access to golf’s high-end demographics.

Winter said advertisers in the traditionally strong categories in golf will again be prevalent in 2012: equipment and apparel makers, financial companies and luxury automakers.

“Almost all of the clients are interested in buying across the platforms,” Winter said. “Every bit of information we have shows that the more a client can invest across, the higher the level of engagement the brand has with the viewer or the user. We see it in the NFL, we see it in the Olympics. There’s greater message and brand recall when you’re interacting across multiple platforms.”

Golf Channel is benefiting from NBC’s broader reach and the cross-promotion between the networks, which is driving viewership, said Mike McCarley, Golf Channel’s president.

“I think you’ll see in 2012 much more of what we can do with the additional resources of NBC Universal to promote big events and the launches of new shows,” he added.

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