As it prepares to cover phenom Rory McIlroy taking on the British Open, Golf Channel is unveiling a redesigned web site designed to more closely compliment the network's on-air programming and surround users with all aspects of the game.
The new site features news and information about the game, articles and blogs from the channels writers, videos from on-air programming, social media highlights, plus it allows golfers to reserve tee times at golf courses, buy equipment and get tips on playing the game better. It also offers new sponsorship opportunities that some advertisers are already taking advantage of.
"You want to provide as much of a well-rounded experience for our viewers as we possibly can. When we're really good is when we're mixing all those together in one show, or one conversation, or one destination where you can get all of that," said Mike McCarley, Golf Channel's president.
A beta version of the new site went up last month. GolfChannel.com had been averaging about 1 million unique visitors per month.
"The idea was taking the golfer through all of the things that the channel has to offer and surround him or her with entertainment news and information tee times travel and events," says Mike Lowe, senior director, business & strategy for GolfChannel.com.
The new site follows Golf Channel becoming part of NBC Sports Group as a result of Comcast's acquisition of control of NBCU. Golf Channel became an integral part of NBC's golf coverage and GolfChannel.com will become the hub for golf coverage on NBCSports.com.
McCarley says the on-air integration was a quick success, generating higher ratings. "We expect to have the same success online over time."
Tom Stathakes, who oversees television programming on the Golf Channel, is now also in charge of content on the website. New writers have been added, including Jason Sobel, former ESPN.com golf editor.
In addition to new content, the site features new advertising units.
Titleist has already sponsored the scrolling ticker that carries scores. Other advertisers have bought "skin" opportunities in which an ad unit surrounds the site's content, and rich media pushdowns.
"We have fantastic relationship with all the of the endemic golf advertisers," says Lowe. "We've been able to branch out to the non-endemic world as well. We have relationship with Cialis, IBM, Southwest Airline, Prudential and KPMG."
Advertisers will also be able to sponsor player profiles, equipment brand pages, and what Golf Channel is calling "Course Candy," featuring images of courses and products.
Another part of the site-GolfNow-- enables users to book tee times on a growing list of golf courses. GolfNow is an ancillary business to Golf Channel that's owned by Comcast, according to McCarley.
The site also lets users buy golf equipment. That's part of a partnership with Dick's Sporting Goods and its Golf Galaxy Unit.
"How to play, where to play, and what to play is a big part of golf," says McCarley.
This week, GolfChannel.com will be loaded with content on the British Open and McIlroy. Writers Rex Hoggard and Jay Coffin will be in Northern Ireland, with Hoggard spending time at the Holywood Golf Club, where McIlroy grew up and learned the game. The pair will be creating feature, blog posts and taking pictures for a photo gallery.