Established in 1995 and originally called The Golf Channel, it is a dedicated sports channel from the NBC Sports Group. As the name suggests, it is dedicated 24-hour channel to cover Golf. It is aired only in the USA, Canada and some parts of South America and Asia. In the US, it is available to almost 70% of all the households with a cable or satellite or wireless TV connection.
The idea of starting an exclusively golf-focused channel took birth in the head of the entrepreneur, Joseph E. Gibbs in the year 1991. Coincidentally, at the same time, he hosted a legendary golf player, Arnold Palmer, at his home in Birmingham, Alabama. They instantly became friends and the idea of an exclusive golf channel started to take shape. As John Gibbs put it, “Getting to know Arnold was when I realized how great this game of golf really is,” Gibbs said. “Walking with Arnold on the golf course, I saw how much the people loved him and loved being around him. That impressed and overwhelmed me.” Gibbs already had ample experience in the media industry, since by then he had already opened three media companies. However, to open in such a niche sport, he needed help from someone from within the sport and who better than Arnold Palmer to do it!
Everything was in place, but before taking a leap, he wanted to back his instincts with solid numbers. This was when he decided to commission a Gallup poll, public opinion polls regularly conducted by Gallup Inc. in the USA to understand the pulse of the public. The results were promising and so, finally in the February of 1993, Gibber and Palmer announced the launch of a dedicated golf channel at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Then, the hunt for capital ensued. They were able to raise 80 million dollars to get the channel started. Their investors included some of the country’s biggest cable operators. Such associations brought them the most significant factor in the success of a TV channel – distribution network.
Aptly and simply named, The Golf Channel was launched on the 17th of January, 1995, though it was initially planned to be launched in May, 1994. The Golf Channel not only became the first channel ever to cover a single sport, but was also the first completely digital production facility to be built in America. No stone was left unturned to ensure that the channel became successful. An experienced management team was constituted, proficient broadcasters were put in place and an exciting line up of shows was created to keep the audiences coming back. Dubai Desert Classic became the first live tournament to be broadcasted on the channel. The tournament went on from 19th to 22nd of January, 1995. In its maiden year itself, The Golf Channel went on to broadcast 23 domestic matches and 41 international tournaments predominantly in Europe and Australia.
A major change in the strategy of the channel came in September, 1995. Initially, a premium channel eyeing only a handful of audiences, The Golf Channel was re-marketed as a channel for the masses. It became available on the regular cable networks. The move did show its effect when the channel started attracting a larger number of audiences and climbing up in the ratings.
1996 saw the channel launching its website, GolfChannel.com that has become the place to be for anyone who wants to know anything about golf. From displaying scores, listing upcoming tournaments, uploading latest videos, discussing tours and performances, educating about the game and equipment, to hosting online games, the site has it all.
2007 turned out to be a landmark year for the Golf Channel. It was in this year that the channel became the official and exclusive network to broadcast a total of 47 PGA Tour events. Golf Channel covers everything from the Mercedes Championship, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, the Sony Open, The Tour Championship, The Player’s Championship, and World Golf Championships among others. These events are first aired live and then are re-run at the prime time slots. It is the first time that the PGA tours were broadcasted this way.
In 2008, the network was recognized for its high operating standards. It won the Emmy Award that year for putting-line virtual technology called Aim Point. It is essentially aimed at improving the golfer’s performance using thorough analysis and provides for a quick way to teach golfers. From 2007 to 2012, Golf Channel extensively used this technology while covering some of the biggest tournaments in Golf during both the PGA tour and LPGA tours.
Golf Channel has slowly grown to become the golf destination in the USA and other countries wherever it is aired. The channel has continually worked towards not only covering all the major golfing events across the globe, but has also strived to educate the masses about this game that is generally considered elitist.
It has many interesting and insightful programs that run on a regular basis and discuss a plethora of things related to the game. Big Break, for instance, is a reality series, which features professional golfers fight it out to earn exemptions in certain events of selected tours. The series puts to test the mental and physical agility of these aspiring golfers. The Haney Project is another popular show on the Golf Channel. Each edition of the show focusses on improving the golfing skill of a celebrity, coached by none other than Hank Haney. Haney is a world renowned golf instructor, known for his stint as the coach to Tiger Woods.
The show started in 2008 and has seen a stream of celebrities including NBA analyst, Charles Barkley, comedian Ray Romano, radio personality Rush Limbaugh, and the iconic Olympic champion Michael Phelps, among many others. Golf Central and Morning Drive provide the regular golf news and analysis for the audiences. There are also many programs on the channel that break down the game of golf to make the audiences understand the game. Programs like Champions Tour Learning Centre, Golf Fitness Academy, Playing Lessons, School of Golf, The Golf Fix, and so on, are focused on helping people learn how to play golf and its nuances.
Golf Channel is definitely a pioneer in its field and has set high standards for any niche channel. It has made conscious efforts in order to become an authority on golf. When you sign up for one of these fantastic Comcast Internet Plans you can watch Golf Channel on line any time you want to. Whether it is the coverage, golf-related programs, informative website or anything in between, it has done it all. Its huge viewer base of 120 million households and the increasing popularity in dozens of countries, is proof that they have certainly succeeded.