Changes in PGA Tour schedule have Golf Channel checking off much of its to-do list early
Given all the changes coming to the 2019 PGA Tour’s schedule — from moving The Players Championship to March to staging the PGA Championship in May — Golf Channel President Mike McCarley held a series of staff meetings last summer so his network would be better prepared.
With bigger events occurring earlier in the year, Golf Channel would have to move its own deadlines up by months. Travel for feature shoots and course surveys took place during the fall rather than the winter. Video editing of on-air packages is happening now rather than during the spring.
During the middle of one planning session, McCarley looked around the room and said, “I don’t want to hear anyone complaining about how busy they are earlier in the year because we’ve been asking for this for years.”
Media executives have spent years calling for the PGA Tour to make these moves. By switching the FedEx Cup to August, golf will have completed its season before the NFL — and its huge TV ratings — plays its regular season. Over the course of six months, golf will have six championship events: the Players in March, Masters in April, PGA Championship in May, U.S. Open in June, British Open in July and FedEx Cup playoffs in August.
Most media executives believe these moves will result in bigger TV ratings, which, in turn, will create more general interest in the sport.
“A lot of work went into this — it was not easy to pull this off,” McCarley said. “But I predict that it will be incredibly successful. It’s the right thing to do for the sport.”
Adding to Golf Channel’s to-do list, this also is the week that NBC’s over-the-top offering, NBC Sports Gold, begins to offer the PGA Tour’s OTT offering, PGA Tour Live, for $64.99 per year or $9.99 per month. The deal will lead to several changes in how PGA Tour Live is produced.
The new PGA Tour Live, which livestreams specific groups, will double the number of live hours it offers. The service used to livestream groups on Thursday and Friday mornings. Now it will run through the weekend.
It added distribution with Roku and Chromecast in addition to Apple TV, Android and iOS devices.
McCarley said the offering will sit alongside other golf-focused subscription products under the NBC Sports umbrella dedicated to the lifestyle of golf: Golf Now, described as Open Table for golf that allows users to reserve tee times; Golf Advisor Club, described as TripAdvisor or Yelp for traveling golfers; and Revolution Golf Plus, which provides golf instruction.
“We market to a passionate audience in a sport that has a unique aspect to it: people who are dedicated to playing the game, not just watching the game,” McCarley said. “You’ll see a very healthy marketing effort all week long, but especially around this Thursday and Friday morning time period when PGA Tour Live is live on NBC Sports Gold.”
PGA Tour Live becomes part of NBC Sports Gold on Jan. 17 — the same day as Golf Channel’s 24th anniversary.