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Volume 22 No. 23
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Golf Channel to revamp with daylong news programming

For the past several years, TV network executives have viewed highlight shows as a relic of the past — something that is as quaint as rotary phones or black-and-white TV sets. Why sit through a full “SportsCenter” when you can call up video highlights in an instant from an iPhone?

 

Television news programming has had to evolve. Take ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” for example. ESPN has tinkered with its flagship program for years — so much so that the shows today look and feel nothing like “SportsCenter” from the 1990s.

 

But “SportsCenter” — the first program in ESPN’s history — still is the dominant brand at ESPN and is a place where ESPN executives invest a lot of time and money.

 

About 1,200 miles down I-95 from Bristol, another sports network is making the same tinkers with its signature news program. Golf Channel’s executives view “Golf Central” in much the same way that ESPN executives view “SportsCenter.” In an interview last week, the first time Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon referenced the “Golf Central” show, she described it as “the first program when Arnold Palmer launched Golf Channel in 1995.”

 

Palmer’s show has proved to be Golf Channel’s most enduring brand. And it’s about to undergo some changes.

 

Golf Channel will brand its news programming throughout the day around the “Golf Central” moniker, leaning on the strong brand the iconic show has built over the years.
Photo: Golf Channel

Starting this week — the day after The Masters — Golf Channel will brand its news programming throughout the day with the “Golf Central” moniker. The channel’s morning show, “Morning Drive,” will feature news breaks branded as “Golf Central Updates.”

 

The channel will break into programming the rest of the day with “Golf Central” segments. It will produce digital “Golf Central” updates for GolfChannel.com, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. And it will host a “Golf Central” show on Facebook Live that previews the night’s 6 p.m. “Golf Central” show.

 

“Now is the time to evolve a nightly news program to a daylong news platform,” Solomon said. “We came up with a mission statement that says, ‘Reimagine and modernize for mobile lifestyle.’ For us, that means using ‘Golf Central’ in daylong updates whenever golf news breaks.”

 

Golf Channel signed TaylorMade as the presenting sponsor for these news segments, whenever and wherever they are produced. Solomon said TaylorMade approached Golf Channel, looking for opportunities for daylong sponsorships and pushed Golf Channel to come up with the idea of expanding “Golf Central.”

 

“It was fortuitous timing,” she said. “We realized that we had been waiting until ‘Golf Central’ at 6 p.m. to report the news. We need to be where our fans are. We also needed to put a team in place that’s going to be ready to go from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.”

 

Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon wants a platform that provides updates whenever golf news breaks.
Photo: Getty Images

Just like with traditional linear news shows, these updates will focus more on news and analysis than highlights, Solomon said. She rattled off a list of on-air reporters — people like Tim Rosaforte, Rex Hoggard, Jay Coffin, Randall Mell and Jaime Diaz — who will lend perspective to the news of the day rather than narrate highlights.

 

“We’ve all come to the conclusion that people don’t just want highlights because they can get them from so many sources,” Solomon said. “They want analysis and perspective. They want us to spin it forward and go deeper on an issue.”

 

Before the 6 p.m. “Golf Central” show, which Solomon calls the “centerpiece” of this whole plan, Golf Channel will produce a Facebook Live show where “Golf Central” hosts preview the upcoming show. Even with all these updates throughout the day, Solomon does not expect the 6 p.m. show to look different than it has for the past year.

 

“It shouldn’t — that’s the crown jewel,” she said. “Some people, particularly our older audience, may not have been in touch for part of the day, so we still need to present the issues in whole. During the day, we will talk about much more of the details. Some of those details may not be in the 6 p.m. show, but we really get to provide more perspective throughout the day as an issue gets flushed out.”

 

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.