Golf Channel Adds Films to On-Demand Game

Limited commercials in Hogan, thanks to Charles Schwab
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Just as you need both a long and a short game in golf, Golf Channel, which has doubled the amount of live programming it airs, is teeing up more on-demand programming, particularly documentaries about the game’s great players and moments.

Golfer Ben Hogan

Golfer Ben Hogan

Golf Channel began producing documentaries in 2014 with a three-parter on the network’s founder, Arnold Palmer, which aired in primetime following The Masters.

This year, Golf Films will make five documentaries, with a total budget in the millions of dollars. The first, Hogan, debuts June 17 and 18 and will be presented with limited commercial interruption thanks to Charles Schwab.

Golf Channel will use its coverage of big tournaments to promote its documentaries — and as a way to extend event coverage, Mike McCarley, president of Golf, NBC Sports Group, said.

Hogan focuses on the story of legendary golfer Ben Hogan. Because there’s relatively little film of Hogan, the documentary relies on reenactments, including some scenes that show the golfer’s nonpareil swing. “It’s a very hard story to tell and to get right because we have an audience that’s got a very critical eye, but our folks took two years to put it together and make sure they got it right,” McCarley said.

Israel “Izzy” DeHerrera, a 13-time Emmy winner and former features producer for NBC’s Olympic unit, heads up Golf’s documentary effort. He’s also a four-handicap golfer, McCarley noted.

The other documentaries on the slate are Tiger Woods — Chasing History; Tom at Turnberry — The 2009 Open, when a 59-yearold Tom Watson nearly won the British Open; The Road to Royal Portrush, looking at the course where the Open will be played for the first time in 68 years; and The Legend of East Lake.

The film on Royal Portrush is being produced with Sky Sports, recently acquired by Golf’s parent Comcast.

Golf Channel also is stocking up on other programming for the growing on-demand world. It has 3,000 hours of instructional programming and 150 episodes of Feherty, featuring interviews with presidents and movie stars, in the can.

As Golf Channel parent NBCUniversal gears up to launch a direct-to-consumer service, some network content could wind up streaming.

Could Golf Channel also do fictional films? It already sells golf clothes from Caddyshack star Bill Murray and his brothers.

“It’s something we’ve kicked around. We’ve taken several pitches on golf comedies. I never say never but it’s got to be authentic for our audience,” McCarley said, observing that “there are a lot of really good comedy writers in Hollywood who love golf.”

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