Since the dawn of PGA Tour Live, the golf industry has been wondering if the Tour was looking to someday launch its own cable television channel or deliver full tournament broadcasts through a streaming service.
When in 2018 the Tour and Discovery Communications debuted the concept of Golf TV as an online and broadcast distribution model outside of the United States, it seemed the signal was sent a PGA Tour Network could be a reality.
However, insiders were confused when the Tour teamed up with NBC Sports to distribute the PGA Tour Live product in 2019. It seemed perhaps the Tour was shelving aspirations of a cable TV channel. Some speculated instead the goal was to continue showing niche coverage of their events, broadcasting unique feeds of featured group rounds or even debuting custom feeds for access to coverage not seen by the Tour's broadcast partners.
It does seem, though, that the Tour does still have aspirations of creating their own cable TV channel. Not only does the Tour seem to be thinking hard about a TV channel, but they're thinking of expanding what we know now as PGA Tour Live.
Reaching out to members of the PGA Tour Fan Council, a group of fans dedicated to providing the Tour with feedback on how they experience the Tour's products in person or from afar, the Tour indicated a TV network could -- COULD -- be coming.
— Tron Carter (@TronCarterNLU) April 10, 2019
Here's how the service is described:
The PGA Tour is considering a new cable television and digital streaming media property that will provide the most comprehensive coverage of the PGA Tour from the first tee shot to the last putt each day of competition, while also offering extensive coverage of other professional tours like the European Tour, LPGA, Web.com Tour and PGA Tour Champions. The goal of this idea is simple: make golf easier and better to watch.
As part of a traditional or a-la-carte television subscription, this channel will provide exclusive Thursday and Friday coverage each week, with lead-in coverage on the weekends. Through digital streaming, fans will also be able to choose from up to 20 different customized feeds, featuring live golf and other relevant content Thursday through Sunday.
Uh, yes, please.
The Tour has indicated in public remarks it hopes to soon be able to record and make available every shot from every player in the field each week. That would mean coverage of all 18 holes, and that could be part of the 20 available feeds each week. However, cameras could also be present to offer the ability to track specific players through their round. In short, this sounds incredible. Of course, the price point would be important for fans, but it's hard to imagine hardcore PGA Tour fans not buying into this kind of service.
The genesis of such a service could be a disaster for Golf Channel, whose schedule is largely aligned around the five biggest golf tours on the planet. Were a PGA Tour Network to come along and pull the rights to their three tours, draw away the European Tour and LPGA, Golf Channel would struggle to fill 24 hours of air time. That might explain why Golf Channel has pushed its own services -- Golf Now, the new Golfpass, Revolution Golf and the like -- in recent years.
Comcast has recognized the distinct possibility PGA Tour rights could go away, leaving them without much of a pull for golf fans to watch their TV programming.
However, the Golf Now products for consumers and golf courses has been thriving, and they make a lot of money by earning cash from both ends of transaction of playing golf.
Golf Advisor hopes to become a major travel player, booking vacations for golfers (though we here at Golf News Net expect our GolfTripX to be a significant player as well).
Revolution Golf is a great complement to the Golf Channel Academy branding and brick-and-mortar golf schools.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Golf Channel try to get involved more in equipment fitting.
Without professional golf programming to fill a 24-hour TV grid, these services would be the path forward for Golf Channel. It's already in the plans, and these companies have proven successful in large part because of the muscle of Golf Channel TV promoting them. Who knows what would happen with an expected dramatic drop off in viewership without the PGA Tour and other major tours.
All of this, though, is not set in stone. The Tour is still exploring a TV network and broader streaming service. Golf Channel still airs almost only live golf from Thursday through Sunday. But the possibility of a PGA Tour Network is exciting and could mark a big step forward in modern professional golf coverage.