For years, it has seemed so obvious: Golf Channel should have a radio presence. It is the standard for golf coverage, particularly at the professional level, and its reach has only continued to grow following the merger of NBC Universal and Comcast, leading to "best year ever" proclamations for three straight years.
With the power of NBC Sports Group leading Golf Channel to new heights, the next step had to be to expand to brand's ubiquity to platforms it didn't touch. Hence, radio.
However, the lineup Golf Channel is preparing to air on SiriusXM's PGA Tour Network Radio is somewhat disappointing.
What will be airing is television programming on radio. It begins on Jan. 6 with a later airing of "Morning Drive" from 9-11 a.m., a couple of hours after the show airs live from 7-9 a.m. ET. Matt Adams' "Fairways of Life" program will maintain its spot in the morning slot on PGA Tour Network Radio, but will be followed essentially by another "setting the table" program.
Unfortunately, that pushes Brian Katrek away from that mid-morning time slot on the network. Katrek's show, "Teed Off," offers (-ed?) a blend of professional golf news and conversation about the way the rest of us play the game. The passion Katrek has for playing the sport comes through in his show's content, as well in other previous roles hosting coverage for the network's play-by-play coverage of PGA Tour events and for the PGA of America's digital coverage of its championships.
Katrek is moved, then, to the network's drive-time program, sharing the mic with John Maginnes and his popular "Maginnes on Tap." We'll see how the two play together, particularly with Maginnes' more insider look at professional golf, but it should make for a solid partnership.
What's the payoff, however, for SiriusXM? They've wanted to bring in a big brand to anchor their golf coverage, which Golf Channel is, in hopes of buoying the PGA Tour name already on the station. That was an option when "Morning Drive" launched on Golf Channel in 2011, when the network offered up the program -- then built to be more radio friendly with veterans Erik Kuselias and Gary Williams -- as a simulcast on the network. That ultimately would have cost way more than SiriusXM was willing to pay, particularly considering the success of "Fairways of Life." Now that the network and SiriusXM, as well as Golf Channel, are all bigger media brands, and the former has finally poured in more resources to support it, this arrangement had carved out an awkward niche for Golf Channel on satellite radio.
In lieu of airing already-aired programming in the time allotted to Golf Channel on PGA Tour Network Radio, SiriusXM provides a great opportunity for Golf Channel to bring some of its personalities to live through a different format. Consider GolfChannel.com writer Jason Sobel, who is an excellent story teller not only in the written word, but has been an excellent podcast host and is an outstanding radio guest. Under utilized, Sobel would shine in a time slot dedicated to him. Rich Lerner has a great presence behind the mic, which would be further underscored on the radio.
Radio programs can be simulcast on TV pretty well, even if they tend to look to unfold on crappily presented talk show sets. TV programming on radio? That's very difficult to make sound as good as it looks.
Golf Channel programming on SiriusXM PGA Tour Network Radio is a win for golf fans, but it can be an even bigger win with the dedication of some resources to original radio instead of repurposed television.