Date: October 18, 2012
Author: Luke Elvy / Golf Australia

Luke Elvy blog: the Golf Channel inside story

In his latest blog, Ewan Porter asked the question is it time we had our own Golf Channel in Australia? It’s a question, which has been floating around for the past decade. It was also my major ambition this year so I m well positioned to answer why there isn t one (at the moment). I say at the moment because despite many setbacks, I haven t given up hope of making it happen. And like Ewan plus many other golf lovers, I believe it should be a reality. Golf Channel, co-founded by Alabama businessman Joe Gibbs with golf legend Arnold Palmer in the mid-90s is now owned by Cable giant Comcast, which also owns NBC. It’s currently on four continents (North and South America, Europe and Asia) and reaches over a 100 million homes worldwide. It’s the largest growing channel in the world and is full of qualified and dedicated people. In my opinion, it does an exceptional job covering the game and would help fill the void we currently have in Australian golf programming. During my time in the US this year, I lived five minutes from the Golf Channel in Orlando, Florida. I appeared occasionally on-air for Morning Drive and I also met with all the key decision makers, including President/CEO Mike McCarley and retired co-founder Gibbs. Among many discussions, the main one was to bring The Golf Channel to Australia, with the aim that I d front the channel locally. As Porter stated it would benefit the sport greatly in this country, especially if we could to tap into their vast list of quality programming plus create some great local content of our own. It’s my driving force. Why? Australia needs it to help combat the enormity of the AFL, NRL and Cricket. We are one of the leading golf nations in the world, with over 1 million registered players yet that audience doesn’t get to connect with our top players very often because they are forced overseas to make it. It’s Golf Channel s desire to be in Australia. Its one of two markets they re keen to crack, the other is the UK. Two of the most established golf markets in the world. During my many meetings, I found that this has been discussed and attempted numerous times over the past 10 years and was closer to a reality through ONE HD. They had a few of Golf Channel s shoulder programs with the mindset of building a bigger golf platform. With new owners at TEN came new direction and ONE HD was scrapped as a 24/7 sports channel thus golf was on the outer. If a Golf Channel is to succeed, Fox Sports seems the logical option. They own most of the rights to tournament golf and have a variety of shows either locally or internationally produced. They just don t see any value in having The Golf Channel as an entity in their channel stream. The main issue is News Limited (owners of Fox Sports) and Comcast are competitors so any partnership would be unlikely. It’s akin to getting Collingwood into bed with Carlton – they are fierce rivals. However, that s not to say timeless programs like Big Break or the Feherty Show won t find their way onto Fox Sports eventually, it just depends on what they want to pay for. As Ewan suggested, it doesn’t have to be The Golf Channel, just something like it. What is in the golf fans favour is the ever-changing media landscape. The internet is giving you more control and it won t be long before you can live-stream the US Golf Channel onto your TV, through your computer for a monthly fee. I m sure there are some who have found a way to do it now. In the meantime, there are a few of us working on some good local golf programming which will find its way onto Australian TV in 2013 and beyond. Luke Elvy has spent time in the United States covering the PGA Tour. He will host the Australian PGA Championship coverage for ONE HD in December and writes exclusively for Golf Australia. His views do not necessarily represent those of Golf Australia. Follow him on Twitter – @elvisgolf