Golf Channel’s Major Digital Drive

Net Tees Off Around-The-Clock Streaming for Tourneys, News, Originals

After teeing off with PGA Tour play at the beginning of the year, Golf Channel last week began streaming its content live on a 24/7 basis.

Golf Live Extra on April 24 initiated live streaming of Golf Channel fare around the clock to authenticated video subscribers from six providers. Available via computers, smartphones and tablets, Golf Live Extra encompasses the network’s coverage of tournaments, news, instruction and original programming. Live streaming of PGA Tour events began in January, when its new TV contract with NBC and CBS went into effect.

Golf’s digital drive follows a streaming expansion by NBC Sports Group. In addition to its vast digital offerings of the Olympic Games — some 3,500 hours were available from London last summer — NBC Sports has been streaming select live events over the years, including Sunday Night Football, TV’s top primetime show; Notre Dame college football; the National Hockey League Game of the Week; and some Stanley Cup Playoff matchups.

On April 11, NBC Sports Network’s live-event coverage, facing off with an NHL contest between Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, became available via NBC Sports Live Extra, the group’s live streaming service. It is expected that all NBC Sports Network fare will go live at some point this year.

NBC Sports Live Extra will show the Stanley Cup playoffs, including the Finals; Major League Soccer; Formula One and Indy Car auto racing; as well as French Open tennis, U.S. Open golf and Triple Crown horse racing, and all 380 matches from England’s top soccer circuit (the Barclays Premier League) as well as the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia.

Since NBC Sports Network events began streaming earlier this month, NBC Sports Group has added Mediacom and Dish Network to an initial group of TV Everywhere providers: Cablevision Systems, Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Suddenlink Communications and Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV.

Mike McCarley, president of Golf Channel and NBC Golf Media, said the “distribution team is hard at work. There is a lot of momentum to continue to add affiliates.” Golf Live Extra and NBC Sports Live Extra are available to nearly half of the TV Everywhere universe.

In addition to the PGA Tour, Golf Live Extra will stream tournament action from the LPGA Tour, European Tour and Champions Tour.

Given golf’s virtual year-round schedule of Thursday and Friday tournament play, in particular, McCarley said Golf Live Extra is expected to become a consistent TV Everywhere destination. “Golf fans like to watch the first two days of tournaments, but they all don’t have televisions in the office,” he said. “[Golf Live Extra] gives them an opportunity to watch on another device on a regular basis.”

He declined to share tournament authenticated viewing data since the streaming of PGA Tour events began with Hawaii stops in January. McCarley said promotional support, extending to various properties, including Golf Channel, didn’t begin until April 24, the day the 24/7 streaming version launched.

Golf Live Extra also includes such instructional series as Playing Lessons, School of Golf, The Golf Fix and Golf Channel Academy.

Golf Channel may have an authenticated advantage over many other sports, given its participatory nature, McCarley said. “Golfers can pull out their iPad at the driving range to watch some of our instructional programming and try to fix their slice,” he said.

News and analysis programming including Morning Drive, Golf Central, Live From and Grey Goose 19th Hole and original productions such as Feherty, The Haney Project: Michael Phelps, Big Break and In Play with Jimmy Roberts will also stream on Golf Live Extra.

McCarley said the addition of original and news programming will provide fans with more options to “watch the network at any time on any device, whether in primetime or as a second-screen experience.”

He said some library fare is already available on the streaming service and Golf Channel is “working on extras. We'll look to add more value for our customers.”

Down the road, McCarley envisions content being created specifically for Golf Live Extra. “Over time, you will see [TV Everywhere platforms] affect Golf Channel and other networks’ programming strategies,” he said.