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History of the Golf Channel
The Golf Channel was co-founded by golf legend Arnold Palmer and media entrepreneur Joseph E. Gibbs of Birmingham, Alabama on January 17, 1995. The idea of a 24-hour golf network came from Gibbs, who first thought of such a concept in 1991. Gibbs felt there was enough interest in golf among the public to support such a network, and commissioned a Gallup Poll to see if his instincts were correct. With the support of the polling behind him, Gibbs and Palmer then secured $80 million in financing from several cable television providers to launch the network, which was among the first cable networks developed to cover one singular sport.
Announced in February 1993, the launch date was targeted for May 1994; and it was launched on January 17, 1995, with a ceremonial flip of the switch by co-founder Palmer. The first live tournament the channel televised was the Dubai Desert Classic, held January 19–22. Originally a premium channel on cable with limited subscribers, it retooled in September 1995 to be part of basic cable to reach more viewers and ratings rapidly increased. Cable television company Comcast became the majority owner in 2000 and the full owner of the channel in 2003.
In its first year on air in 1995, the Golf Channel televised 23 domestic tournaments and 41 European and Australian events. Today, Golf Channel features more live golf coverage than all other networks combined, including tournament action from the PGA TOUR, LPGA Tour, the Web.com tour, the Champions tour, The Open, Olympics, the Ryder Cup, the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, as well as high-quality news, instruction and original programming.
In December 2006, it was announced that Golf Channel had acquired cable television rights to the PGA Tour as part of a new 15-year contract. The contract included early-round coverage of all official money events, as well as full rights to early-season and Fall Series events.
In March 2008, Comcast acquired the online golf reservation platform GolfNow. It was re-located to Golf Channel’s headquarters in Orlando, Florida.
In January 2011, Comcast acquired a 51% majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric. As a result of the re-alignment of Comcast’s existing properties into NBC Universal, Golf Channel and sister sports network Versus were subsumed by a restructured NBC Sports division. On-air synergies between NBC’s existing production unit began to take effect in February 2011 at the WGC Match Play Championship, when NBC’s golf telecasts took on the Golf Channel branding as “Golf Channel on NBC”, in a similar manner to ESPN’s co-branding of sports output on ABC. NBC Sports personalities could now appear on Golf Channel, and former NBC Sports senior vice president Mike McCarley took over as the network’s new head. The network also adopted an amended logo featuring the NBC peacock.
In 2011 it became part of the NBC Sports Group. It is now available to nearly 500 million viewers in nearly 80 countries and nine languages around the world. In 2013, NBC Sports Group extended its multi-platform partnership with the PGA of America to be the exclusive U.S. broadcast partner of the biennial Ryder Cup through 2030. In 2015, NBC Sports Group formed a 13-year partnership with the R&A to be the exclusive U.S. media partner of The Open (marking Golf Channel’s first-time ever televising a men’s major championship beginning in 2016), Ricoh Women’s British Open, Senior Open Championship and other R&A events.
In December 2013, Golf Channel unveiled a new logo, implemented in May 2014 to coincide with the 2014 Players Championship. The new logo replaces the “swinging G” emblem that had been used since the network’s launch with a wordmark alongside the NBC peacock. The new logo was meant to provide a unified brand across Golf Channel’s associated properties and services.
On June 8, 2015, it was announced that NBC Sports had acquired rights to The Open Championship beginning in 2017 under a 12-year deal; after former broadcaster ESPN opted out of the final year of rights, NBC began coverage in 2016 instead. Early round coverage is aired by Golf Channel, which marked the first time ever that Golf Channel had ever broadcast one of the four Men’s major golf championships. On May 3, 2016, NBC announced that the Golf Channel would air the bulk of the men’s and women’s golf tournaments for the 2016 Summer Olympics, covering up to 300 hours of the tourney, with 130 of those hours live. Today, the Golf Channel is one of most watched programs on TV.