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Golf Channel (also verbally referred to as simply Golf) is an American sports television network owned by the NBC Sports Group division of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The channel focuses on coverage of the sport of golf, including live coverage of tournaments, as well as factual and instructional programming. It also houses the Golf Films franchise, a collection of independently produced biographical films that center around key figures and events in the history of golf.
Founded in Birmingham, Alabama, the channel’s headquarters and studios are currently located in Orlando, Florida. Golf Channel is available in the United States, Canada, Latin America and Southeast Asia through subscription television providers.
As of September 2018, Golf Channel is available to approximately 70.3 million pay television households (76.2% of households with cable) in the United States.
The idea of a 24-hour golf network came from media entrepreneur Joseph E. Gibbs of Birmingham, Alabama, who first thought of such a concept in 1991. Gibbs felt there was enough interest in golf among the public to support such a network, and commissioned a Gallup Poll to see if his instincts were correct. With the support of the polling behind him, Gibbs and legendary golfer Arnold Palmer then secured $80 million in financing from several cable television providers to launch the network, which was among the first subscription networks developed to cover one singular sport.
Announced in February 1993, the launch date was targeted for May 1994; and it was launched on January 17, 1995, with a ceremonial flip of the switch by co-founder Arnold Palmer. The first live tournament the channel televised was the Dubai Desert Classic, held January 19–22. Originally a premium channel with limited subscribers,it retooled in September 1995 to be part of basic-tier pay TV to reach more viewers and ratings rapidly increased. Cable television company Comcast became the majority owner in 2000 and the full owner of the channel in 2003.
In December 2006, it was announced that Golf Channel had acquired pay television rights to the PGA Tour as part of a new 15-year contract. The contract included early-round coverage of all official money events, as well as full rights to early-season and Fall Series events.
In March 2008, Comcast acquired the online golf reservation platform GolfNow. It was re-located to Golf Channel’s headquarters in Orlando.
In January 2011, Comcast acquired a 51% majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric. As a result of the re-alignment of Comcast’s existing properties into NBC Universal, Golf Channel and sister sports network Versus were subsumed by a restructured NBC Sports division. On-air synergies between NBC’s existing production unit began to take effect in February 2011 at the WGC Match Play Championship, when NBC’s golf telecasts took on the Golf Channel branding as “Golf Channel on NBC”, in a similar manner to ESPN’s co-branding of sports output on ABC. NBC Sports personalities could now appear on Golf Channel, and former NBC Sports senior vice president Mike McCarley took over as the network’s new head. The network also adopted an amended logo featuring the NBC peacock.
In December 2013, Golf Channel unveiled a new logo, implemented in May 2014 to coincide with the 2014 Players Championship. The new logo replaces the “swinging G” emblem that had been used since the network’s launch with a wordmark alongside the NBC peacock. The new logo was meant to provide a unified brand across Golf Channel’s associated properties and services.
On June 8, 2015, it was announced that NBC Sports had acquired rights to The Open Championship beginning in 2017 under a 12-year deal; after former broadcaster ESPN opted out of the final year of rights, NBC began coverage in 2016 instead.Early round coverage is aired by Golf Channel, which marked the first time ever that Golf Channel had ever broadcast one of the four Men’s major golf championships. On May 3, 2016, NBC announced that Golf Channel would air the bulk of the men’s and women’s golf tournaments for the 2016 Summer Olympics, covering up to 300 hours of the tourney, with 130 of those hours live.
In 2016, Golf Channel acquired the World Long Drivers Association, organizer of the World Long Drive Championships; coverage of its events were subsequently added to the network.In 2017, Golf Channel acquired Revolution Golf, an online provider of golf instructional materials.
Before the final round of the 2018 Sony Open in Hawaii tournament, Golf Channel production staged a walkout.
In February 2019, Golf Channel announced a new subscription service known as GolfPass. The service will feature a variety of content, including a streaming library of archive content, instructional content, as well as special offers (such as credit for free round of golf per-year, and a premium tier offering additional discounts). Rory McIlroy will also be involved in the service, hosting new instructional content for GolfPass, as well as an autobiographical web series.