Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Golf Channel Making Its Move

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Golf Channel Making Its Move

Article excerpt

ORLANDO, Fla. --

Golf Channel president Mike McCarley was working the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach for NBC one morning in June 2010 when he got a call from NBC Sports icon Dick Ebersol.

"Are you watching this?" Mr. McCarley recalled Mr. Ebersol as saying.

"Watching what? It's 7 o'clock in the morning."

"Golf Channel," Mr. Ebersol replied. "It's great, what they're doing out there. They're showing the putting green, telling stories about the mystique of Pebble, the lodge, the Northern California fog. Great stuff."

Perhaps it was coincidence that nine months later, in February 2011, NBC would become a partner with Golf Channel and Mr. McCarley, 39 and one of its best idea men, would take over as president. The exponential growth that followed has made Golf Channel the fastest- growing network in television two years running, going from an average of 70,000 viewers per hour over a 24-hour period in 2010 to 95,000 in 2012.

This week, the Orlando-based network is moving into an expansive new studio in time for next week's Masters.

"For the sports fan," Mr. McCarley said, "the week of a major championship is about getting exactly what they want, to be able to see what's going on at any given time. No one can do that like we can."

CBS and ESPN have the broadcast rights to the Masters, but Golf Channel has become such an integral part of PGA Tour coverage, fans know it's the one network that will be Masters-intensive 24/7.

Launched in 1995 by Birmingham cable operator Joe Gibbs and Arnold Palmer, Golf Channel in its formative years relied on shows such as "The Big Break" and what was then the Nike Tour [now the web.com Tour] as well as commentary and insights on the PGA and LPGA tours to attract what was then a niche audience.

"There was a time back in 1997 when Tiger used to come [to the studio] to look at his swing," senior vice president of programming Tom Knapp said. "He would sit by himself in a little room and see how he was doing. That was how familiar and small it was at the time."

Change began to come in 2003, when Golf Channel replaced CNBC as broadcast partner of the Champions Tour, and expanded its coverage with both pre-game and post-game shows. …

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