Philadelphia -- Comcast Corp. has taken a controlling
interest in The Golf Channel, exercising an option that allowed the company to increase
its equity stake from 40.1 percent to 54.7 percent.
Comcast also wants to buy more stakes from minority holders
in an effort to increase its stake in the channel to 60.5 percent.
"We had an option and we exercised that option,"
Comcast president Brian Roberts, a skilled golfer himself, said last week in a conference
call with analysts.
"The channel is significantly cash-flow-positive and
growing," he added. "They've increased distribution in Canada and the United
States, and with the Tiger Woods phenomenon, I think we're sitting at the right place at
the right time with a fabulous brand."
Woods is one of the more popular golfers on the PGA Tour,
and his recent attempt to break golf legend Ben Hogan's consecutive-tournament wining
streak commanded record television ratings for the sport.
In a news release, Roberts also put in a plug for channel
founders Arnold Palmer and Joe Gibbs and the management team they put together. "They
have done a spectacular job of building this channel, and they will continue to drive its
growth," he said.
Other investors in Golf include Fox Television with 30.9
percent and The Times Mirror Co. with 8.6 percent.
Golf, based in Orlando, Fla., is the only 24-hour network
devoted exclusively to golf programming. According to Nielsen Media Research figures, the
channel is available to about 29.3 million homes, good for 40th place on the
So far in 2000, Golf has added close to 1 million
subscribers, making it the 11th-fastest-growing network, according to a Nielsen
Comcast is also principal owner of several other networks:
QVC, Comcast-Spectacor, Comcast SportsNet and E! Entertainment Television.