Discovery’s $2 billion swing at the international golf market is taking shape, with its upcoming streaming service to be branded “GOLFTV.” The OTT service will tee off around the world at the beginning of 2019 and have live PGA Tour coverage in a raft of territories at launch. More territories will get the live coverage in the next four years as existing rights deals play out.
Discovery upped former NBA and DirecTV exec Alex Kaplan from an EVP role at Eurosport (which Discovery owns) to run GOLFTV as president and general manager of Discovery Golf. He said the new service would be a digital experience that did not previously exist for fans of the sport.
“This is a really big bet for us,” Kaplan told Variety. “We are convinced that by focusing maniacally on specific super-fan verticals we can create a meaningful global, digital business. Golf is a huge piece of that [strategy] for us. Our hope here is we can aggregate the golf audience globally and really achieve some scale.
“The vision is to create global ecosystem for golf, a one-stop shop for golf fans,” he added. “We think there’s a huge business opportunity for us ,and it ties nicely with the future of how consumers are going to interact with media across multiple platforms.”
As well as live coverage, Discovery is looking further down the track at golf programming that could extend to analysis, equipment reviews, course reviews, and travel, which would make sense given its acquisition of the Travel Channel as part of its deal for Scripps.
Discovery and the PGA signed a $2 billion pact earlier this year that will run for 12 years. It encompasses 2,000 hours of live action from the PGA Tour, including live coverage from the main PGA Tour events, and almost 150 tournaments in all, including the Players Championship, the FedExCup Playoffs and the Presidents Cup.
The ambitious plans for golf follows Discovery’s big move into the Olympics in 2015, when it snagged European rights to the Games between 2018 and 2024 for about $1.4 billion. It then sub-licensed those rights to partners throughout Europe. The new Discovery-PGA partnership will manage the linear and multi-platform PGA Tour rights outside the U.S. in a similar manner.
GOLFTV will replace the PGA Tour Live streaming service in international markets. The coverage of live events will hit Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and Spain in 2019. Poland and South Korea will follow in 2020, and Belgium, China, Germany and South Africa in 2021. In 2022, GOLFTV will launch in Britain, Denmark, Finland, India, Norway and Sweden. France will launch in 2024.
Pricing has not been revealed, but Kaplan confirmed that there will likely be different tiers available and some free content, including snippets of PGA Tour events. He also said discussions were underway with other rights holders to add more live events to the lineup. “We want to engage a younger audience around golf…and one of the ways to do that is to bring them in in front of the paywall and, over time, convert them to higher-paying subs,” he said.