‘Golf Channel on NBC’. A lesson for Australian Broadcasters?

Many of you watching One HD”s coverage of the Accenture World Match Play Golf Championship over the weekend may have noticed a change to the Golf Channel’s usual coverage. Golf fans in Australia and around the world would be familiar with PGA Tour events having the first two rounds branded with Golf Channel graphics and commentators, and then for rounds three and four featuring NBC or CBS graphics and commentators.

What was different about coverage of the Accenture World Match Play last weekend? The emergence of ‘Golf Channel on NBC.’ This new branding comes about because regulators in the US recently approved Comcast’s takeover of NBC Universal. Comcast is the owner of the Golf Channel.

The new branding will continue throughout the golf season on NBC’s 10 PGA Tour events, similar to the way ESPN’s brand is used on ABC telecasts, according to Sports Business Daily. NBC will use Golf Channel’s graphics, leaderboard and logos during the Saturday and Sunday telecasts of the tour.

As reported by Sports Business Daily and seen during the broadcast over the weekend a combined logo with the Golf Channel “G” and NBC’s peacock is now present on some of the graphics

Mike McCarley from NBC said

“this will certainly be a way to grow the Golf Channel audience and extend the brand…A lot of NBC Sports has been defined by golf over the years, and to take the Golf Channel brand and put it front and center on NBC is a testament to the brand Golf Channel has become.”

From an Australian perspective, the closest any broadcasters Down Under have come to dual branding is Network Ten’s use of One HD branding when broadcasting sport – however this is different from the NBC/Golf Channel brand integration because the Golf Channel is a well-established brand looking for growth from terrestrial exposure, whereas Ten appeared to adopt the One HD branding to give One HD brand exposure to find an audience for its new digital-only channel.

There were rumours a few years ago about a tie up between Nine’s Wide World of Sports and Premier Media Group’s Fox Sports. However this never got off the ground as a change in ownership at Nine meant Premier Media Group’s owners (Consolidated Media Holdings (50%) and News Ltd (50%)) had no ownership relationship with Nine (CVC Asia Pacific), therefore limiting any synergies that could have grown from a rebranding and a sharing of on-air/off-air talent.

Off sport The Australian today reported that the removal of Grant Buckley as Ten Network Chief Executive may pave the way for new owners James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Gina Rinehart, along with long-time Ten Network shareholder Bruce Gordon to steal a page out of NBC’s book by rebranding its news broadcast as ‘Sky News on Ten.’ This website last year suggested that Sky News should enter the market as a free-to-air digital only channel to expand its reach (by using Seven or Nine’s digital spectrum) and position itself as a serious contender for the new Australia Network contract.

In today’s Australian Mark Day argues

“Putting Sky on Ten would replicate the British situation, where Sky News runs on the Freeview FTA platform. This has not damaged BSkyB’s ability to sell subscriptions to its 500-odd channel service, and it wouldn’t do so here, either. Foxtel could still promote Sky’s bells-and-whistles service of five local news feeds, eight interactive channels, a business channel and the APAC public service channel.

Putting Sky News on FTA would double its reach on cable, providing larger commercial sales opportunities. The only 24/7 news on FTA is provided by the ABC on digital channel 24 – a service much hyped and greatly disappointing, being essentially a rehash of Aunty’s current affairs portfolio punctuated with flat-footed responses to news.

But wait, there’s more. A Sky-Ten agreement could become a two-way street. Ten has invested heavily in new newsroom resources; instead of reversing those hirings, there is a thought that Ten could become the video-gatherer for all commercial TV news players.”

Whilst this is true and would most likely be a positive outcome for both Sky and Ten with many synergies available, would Sky’s owners Australian News Channel allow this? Australian News Channel is owned by BSkyB (33.3%), Seven Network (33.3%) and Nine Network (33.3%). Would the two commercial broadcasters (Seven and Nine) want Ten to grab hold of the Sky News brand and grow it to the potential detriment of the Seven and Nine News brands? Surely not.

Therefore the Comcast/NBC Universal tie up and brand integration is a sensible move to compete in the highly competitive US Sports Broadcast market and drive more subscribers to the Golf Channel’s offering and Comcast cable platform. However in Australia a Sky News/Ten link up appears unlikely due to Seven and Nine wanting to protect market position in the free-to-air sector and therefore blocking Sky News from entering into any agreement with Ten.

No doubt though if Ten’s news experiment fails to deliver audience growth over the next 6 to 12 months expect change from Ten’s new controllers Messrs Packer, Murdoch and Rinehart as they put their mark (if they have not already) on Australia’s third commercial free-to-air broadcaster.


NBC Golf Channel join forces broadcast coverage weekend

The Australian

Sky News Australia via Ten Pretty Unlikely

The Golf Channel

Sports Business Daily


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