It’s been a good week for cord-cutting sports fans. Word has it that CBS will live stream the Super Bowl commercials for the first time. Disney is considering its options for making ESPN a standalone service (well…maybe five years from now.) And now, golf fans are getting a digital subscription service of their own, with the debut of the PGA TOUR LIVE’s new online and mobile offering.
Developed in partnership with MLB Advanced Media, this is the first over-the-top subscription offering from the PGA TOUR, and will include exclusive content that had never before been produced or aired on TV.
The inclusion of this additional content speaks to how a niche subscription service like this can better target the most zealous of fans – meaning, it may have the ability to not just pick up cord cutters who are looking for a different way to tune into the tournament itself, but could convince pay TV subscribers to tack on the subscription service as well.
In fact, according to a statement from Rick Anderson, the PGA TOUR’s EVP for Global Media, PGA TOUR LIVE is aiming to do just that. Anderson believes the exclusive confident of marquee groups and the Thursday and Friday morning telecasts “has strong potential to build fan interest and viewership for our traditional television coverage,” he says.
In speaking with TechCrunch, Anderson also added that the PGA TOUR hopes to reach a lot of different groups with the new offering. “Certainly we think that this content will appeal to our core audience. Our sport is unique in that so much competition does not actually make it on to television in that our events are played over four days, with typically over 120 players. This gives us an opportunity to bring the stars of our game to digital platforms, all of which is incremental and complimentary to our television products,” he says.
“We also hope that this coverage will appeal to people who prefer to get all of their content on digital platforms and mobile devices. Our goal is to reach as many fans as possible,” Anderson noted.
The product itself was built by MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), which has also built the streaming infrastructure and, in some cases, the apps for things like HBO NOW, the WWE Network, The Blaze (Glenn Beck’s network), PlayStation Vue’s streaming service, MLB.com at Bat, ESPN’s streaming service (not the app), March Madness’s streaming infrastructure, and, most recently, the streams for The Grateful Dead’s last shows.
The new PGA TOUR LIVE subscription service will cost $4.99 per month, and will kick off this Thursday at 7:30 AM ET to provide access to tournament rounds from the Quicken Loans National. Viewers on Thursday and Friday will be able to watch live coverage of two morning groups featuring some of the tour’s biggest stars in rounds that have never before been available live. Players featured in these groups include Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane, James Hahn, K.J. Choi, Danny Lee, John Senden, Tiger Woods, Bill Haas, Nick Watney, Justin Rose, Jimmy Walker, David Lingmerth, and others.
After the featured groups wrap up on Thursday and Friday, the PGA TOUR LIVE will shift to live broadcast coverage to the Featured Holes at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. Overall, this will include more than 11 hours of live coverage per day, including the Golf Channel’s afternoon telecasts.
In addition, users will be alerted to the week’s featured groups via push notifications in the app.
The timing makes sense for the PGA to test the waters with an on-demand service given that golf today has so many young players competing, including 22-year old Jordan Speith, who’s the youngest player to win two majors since Gene Sarazen in 1922. That gives the PGA TOUR LIVE the potential to also attract a younger viewership – and that’s who is also leading the way when it comes to severing the cord with traditional, pay TV.
The subscription offering is initially launching via an app on the iTunes App Store, and the content can also be viewed on the pgatourlive.com, the company says. It will be available only in select markets, including the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Australia and the U.K. However, other markets are expected to launch in the future, and an Android version will also be made available in 2016. Users can test out the app and online streaming service for free during a seven-day trial period.
While, at launch, the PGA TOUR LIVE is starting with seven tournaments through the remainder of the 2014-2015 season, going forward subscribers will be able to view more than 30 PGA TOUR events per season.
Though golf fans are a subset of sports viewers as a whole, the PGA TOUR today reaches over a billion households worldwide in 226 countries through its broadcast TV efforts. Clearly, the PGA TOUR LIVE’s over-the-top offering will reach a much smaller audience, but one that could grow over time as more viewers abandon their cable and satellite subscriptions.
These viewers, as well as those who never sign up for a TV subscription in the first place (the so-called “cord nevers”) will be looking to build personalized content bundles using a combination of major streaming services like Netflix and Amazon’s, as well as niche services that fill in the gaps. That’s where a service like this fits in.
The mobile app will be available today on iTunes, and will feature on-demand highlights and previews until the streams begin on Thursday morning.