SBJ/July 15-21, 2013/Media

NFL gets ‘Big Break’ on Golf Channel

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Golf Channel is partnering with the NFL for its next “Big Break” series, with six former NFL players competing in the 20th version of the show, which wrapped up filming last month at the Dorado Beach Resort in Puerto Rico.

The 11-episode weekly series debuts Oct. 8 and will air Tuesday nights on Golf Channel.

The show, which features Jerry Rice and five other former NFL players, extends the league’s ties with NBC Sports Group, which owns Golf Channel.
Photo by: MARK ASHMAN / GOLF CHANNEL
The show is the latest example of the NFL expanding its brand to non-football TV outlets. The league has placed shows on networks like USA and Spike TV, even though neither holds rights to NFL games.

The show also marks the extension of the NFL’s relationship with NBC Sports Group, which owns Golf Channel. NBC plans to promote the series heavily during its NFL programming, and Golf Channel will use “Sunday Night Football” sideline reporter Michele Tafoya as one of the series’ hosts, alongside Golf Channel’s Tom Abbott.

“We generally haven’t done any programming where players are doing another sport, other than dancing shows,” said Tracy Perlman, vice president of entertainment, marketing and promotions for the NFL.

Golf Channel’s executive producer Molly Solomon said the network started exploring using NFL players soon after Comcast’s acquisition of NBC became official in 2011. Golf Channel initiated talks with the NFL around 18 months ago, she said.

“This is the 20th edition of ‘Big Break,’ and we wanted to do something unique to celebrate this milestone,” Solomon said.

As part of the agreement, Golf Channel can use the NFL shield as part of the “Big Break” logo, which is something the league generally does not allow, Perlman said. It also allows the series to use league and team marks during the telecasts.

“We have a massive fan base and want to make sure we reach all of our fans,” Perlman said. “For us, these kinds of shows pull the curtain back a little bit on how NFL players perform off the field.”

Golf Channel has carried “Big Break” since 2003, making it the channel’s longest-running original program. The new series matches six former players with 12 former “Big Break” competitors. Each player will team with one male and one female “Big Break” competitor and compete as a team. The former players played for $50,000 that they gave to a designated charity; the “Big Break” competitors played for tournament exemptions, cash and other prizes.

The NFL competitors are Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Chris Doleman, Mark Bulger, Mark Rypien and Al Del Greco. The golfers are a three-handicap or better.

Rice, Rypien and Brown are scheduled to compete in Lake Tahoe’s American Century Championship on NBC this weekend.

Chi Chi Rodriguez and NBC’s “Football Night In America” analyst Rodney Harrison will make guest appearances during the series.

Golf Channel executives said they expect to produce similar “Big Break” concepts around other sports. Golf Channel is planning a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign around the series that would see spots on both NBC and non NBC-owned assets.

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