Inside GolfTV, the PGA TOUR, and Discovery’s International Expansion

The streaming service will combine live coverage and localized content

On June 4, the PGA TOUR and Discovery announced a 12-year partnership to create a streaming service for the international market but included few details. Last week, they unveiled GolfTV, which will be available to viewers in every country except the U.S. starting Jan. 1.

GolfTV is a links-lover’s wish list, combining live tournament coverage, an on-demand library, and content localized for key markets. Subscribers will be able to watch major live events however they prefer: a standard produced live feed (which shows the tournament from start to finish and follows the top players), time-shifted tournaments for an almost-live experience, or hole-to-hole coverage that follows popular players from their region. In Spain, for example, the service might create feeds showing every shot by Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia. Although GolfTV won’t provide this level of local content in all markets from day one, it will phase in local feeds over the first year or two. GolfTV will show all the events on the PGA TOUR schedule, except for the majors that PGA TOUR doesn’t run (The Masters, PGA Championship, U.S. Open, and The Open Championship) or events covered by legacy licensing deals.

For the PGA TOUR, localizing content goes beyond simply hiring local announcers.

“In Japan,” explains Rick Anderson, chief media officer, PGA TOUR, “the platform will focus on Japanese content — not just language localization but also actual content localization. For example, we might have a channel dedicated to Hideki Matsuyama; if you come to GolfTV by PGA TOUR in Japan, you would find that channel. If you were in Korea, you might find the channel is dedicated to Korean players. So the platform’s global, but it’s also intended to let us provide localized content for some of the key territories around the world.”

The on-demand library will include more than 400 programs from the PGA TOUR archive, as well as on-demand access to highlights and full-event streams once a tournament has finished.

For the moment, PGA TOUR hasn’t set the price, but an announcement is expected to come soon. The service will be available through iOS and Android devices, as well as browsers, at launch. Support for Apple TV, Android TV, Fire TV, game consoles, and connected TVs is in the works, but the PGA TOUR isn’t saying when they will begin.

PGA TOUR’s Rick Anderson: “The platform’s global, but it’s also intended to let us provide localized content for some of the key territories around the world.”

In this and its other offerings, the PGA TOUR is making an effort to cater to the preferences of young viewers. The league is investing in research tools and experimenting with how content is packaged to make it more consumable by them. As it develops data around these experiments, viewers will see content offered in different ways, first playing with time and duration. Although competition has always been central to golf coverage, it might not be the best angle for reaching all viewers. Some will enjoy the beautiful locations where tournaments are held, and some will want to focus on the cultures of each area. Understanding new ways to interest viewers is a concern going forward for both GolfTV and the PGA TOUR’s U.S. efforts.

Not all young viewers have the same interests, Anderson says. Some people under 35 consume every minute of every broadcast, but others like storylines that go beyond the sports realm. The league is just scratching the surface of figuring it out, he says, but has made studying the area a major focus going forward.

GolfTV will replace the league’s existing international offering, the PGA TOUR Live package. Current subscribers will be folded in to the new service. They should be pleased, as the current PGA TOUR Live service focuses on the first two rounds of each tournament on Thursday and Friday and covers two featured groups. They’ll get that content and much more through GolfTV.

PGA TOUR chose to work with Discovery on this international service. Having studied possible partners, it appreciated Discovery’s international-distribution abilities.

“The resources that they bring to bear on a project like this are phenomenal and really dwarf anything that we could do on our own,” Anderson says. “As we got to know them, we realized that they had — especially in their CEO, David Zaslav — a passion for our sport and a company strategy in going direct-to-consumer and also going in and trying to build out extreme fandom and capturing that. That really matched up extremely well with building this kind of a property for golf and for the PGA TOUR. As we got to know them, we figured out they were the perfect partner.”

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