History of GOLF CHANNEL
In early 1990, cable-entrepreneur Joseph E. Gibbs began his quest to launch a 24-hour golf network. As fate would have it, that same year Gibbs opened up his Birmingham, Ala., home to host one of the pros playing in the PGA Championship. That pro was none other than The King himself, Arnold Palmer. An immediate friendship developed between the two and that bond sparked the idea that became the Golf Channel.
“Getting to know Arnold was when I realized how great this game of golf really is,” Gibbs said. “Walking with Arnold on the golf course, I saw how much the people loved him and loved being around him. That impressed and overwhelmed me.”
Gibbs, who already had built three successful cable and communication companies, had the business experience to launch a network. But Gibbs knew his inexperience in golf and the lack of connections within the golf industry would hamper his ability to get his idea off the ground. Arnold would prove to be the key!
In February ’93, Gibbs and Palmer publicly announced their plans to launch Golf Channel at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. They began raising capital through multiple sources including six of the country’s leading cable operators. The cable operator investment not only infused necessary capital to keep the business going, it brought with it one of the most important keys to a fledgling cable network’s success – distribution.
Golf Channel was launched on January 17, 1995, and was the first fully digital production facility in the United States. Golf Channel recruited an experienced management team, an expert lineup of broadcasters and developed a varied programming schedule. In its first year, Golf Channel televised 23 domestic tournaments and 41 European and Australian events.
Since then, the network has been the gold standard for other niche cable start-ups and a leading voice within the golf industry. What started as a single sports channel in 1995 has evolved into the fastest-growing network on television and a powerful lifestyle brand, which presently can be seen in more than 120 million homes in 83 countries worldwide through cable, satellite and wireless companies.
In 1996, GolfChannel.com was launched and, subsequently, has grown to become the Internet’s most reliable source of golf news and information. The site also offers hundreds of instructional videos, equipment news and reviews, and travel tips to help recreational golfers enjoy golf more and improve their games. The success of the website gave rise to an entire suite of digital businesses under the Golf Channel umbrella, including GolfNow, which uses leading-edge technology to keep golfers connected to their favorite courses and tee times through the web, e-mail and mobile devices. Other applications for mobile devices, including the popular Golf Channel app and Golf Live Extra, which provides live, authenticated streaming of Golf Channel programming 24/7, allow fans the opportunity to keep in touch with Golf Channel while on the go. The Golf Channel Am Tour, which hosts more than 800 tournaments each year at some of the best courses in the country, also is part of the network’s digital businesses.
Exclusive partnerships with the world’s top tours allow Golf Channel to feature more live golf coverage than all other networks combined. In 2007, Golf Channel embarked on its unprecedented 15-year agreement as the exclusive cable television home for the PGA Tour. Each season, Golf Channel has exclusive rights to the first nine tournaments, as well as exclusive early round rights to every remaining tournament on the FedExCup schedule, including the World Golf Championships, TOUR Championship and THE PLAYERS Championship, the PGA TOUR’s crown jewel. In total each year, GOLF CHANNEL provides coverage of more than 40 PGA TOUR events. Additionally, Golf Channel televises golf action from the LPGA Tour, Champions Tour, European Tour, Web.com Tour, as well as other competition from the PGA of America, Australia, Asia and South Africa.
In addition to being the leader in golf tournament coverage, Golf Channel is the home of innovative, insightful and entertaining programming, including leading news programs like GOLF CENTRAL, LIVE FROM and MORNING DRIVE; instruction with THE GOLF FIX and SCHOOL OF GOLF; and original specials and series like the award-winning BIG BREAK competition series, FEHERTY, and IN PLAY WITH JIMMY ROBERTS. In 2014, Golf Channel expanded into radio through a broadcasting agreement with SiriusXM, which now carries Golf Channel programming on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.
When the Comcast-NBCUniversal transaction was completed in January 2011, Golf Channel became part of the NBC Sports Group. The sports media company consists of an array of broadcast television, cable television and digital sports assets, including NBC Sports & Olympics, NBC Sports Network, Golf Channel, 11 Comcast SportNets (regional sports networks), and their respective digital properties. Together, the assets of the NBC Sports Group possess an unparalleled collection of television rights agreements, partnering with some of the most prestigious sports properties in the world: the International Olympic Committee and United States Olympic Committee, the NFL, NHL, PGA TOUR, PGA of America, USGA, Churchill Downs, MLS, Tour de France, French Open, IndyCar, and many more.
Golf Channel Executives