SBJ/May 5-11, 2014/Media

Next Golf Channel documentary will focus on Payne Stewart, debut around U.S. Open

The late golfer Payne Stewart will be the subject of Golf Channel’s second documentary film project.

The one-hour documentary called “Payne” is timed to debut around next month’s U.S. Open. It will premiere on NBC June 8 at 5 p.m. ET. It will re-air the following day on Golf Channel at 10 p.m. ET.

The documentary comes nearly 15 years after Stewart died in a plane accident, which came just a few months after Stewart won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, the same course that will host this year’s event.

The push at Golf Channel Films to invest in these types of high-quality documentaries marks a change in strategy at the 19-year-old channel. Golf Channel President Mike McCarley and executive producer Molly Solomon have invested more in high-quality shoulder programming around the channel’s live events.

Golf Channel Film’s first documentary effort, “Arnie,” debuted three weeks ago and easily became the channel’s top-rated original film. The three-part series averaged 471,000 viewers on its first night, 341,000 viewers on the second and 320,000 viewers on the third — viewer numbers that helped Golf Channel post its best ever viewers numbers for April. The documentary generated heavy media coverage and was received well.

“Payne” was developed by Golf Channel. Peter Franchella directed the film, which will feature interviews with Stewart’s family, friends and competitors. Franchella was an NBC Sports cameraman during the 1999 U.S. Open that Stewart won. Fritz Mitchell and Matt O’Connor co-produced the film, and Al Szymanski wrote it.

Golf Channel plans to produce more documentaries through its Golf Channel Films division, but it does not have a specific number that it plans to produce each year.

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