(January 31, 2021) - Golf Channel, the only network devoted entirely to our sport, has officially become a Connecticut operation, moving this year to NBCUniversal's Stamford studio. Golf Channel is part of NBC Sports.
On January 4, the channel launched Golf Today from the Stamford studio, its new anchor in-studio show. The show replaces the channel's long running, Morning Drive which was canceled in the fall. Drive's Damon Hack along with Anna Whiteley, made the move joining Jimmy Roberts and newcomer Shane Bacon.
"It's impressive how good Golf Today is with only a month under its belt," said Joel Beall of Golf Digest. "Bacon and Hack are the avatars fans have wanted in the TV space for years: a team that eschews gimmicks, talking about the game the way you talk about it with your friends."
The channel that broadcasts from Connecticut promises to be far different than the one that left Orlando. Bacon spoke to us about Golf Today and the re-envisioned Golf Channel. Many golf fans will reconginze Bacon from his work on FOX Sports during USGA events and from his podcast, Get a Grip with PGA Tour pro Max Homa.
"I [was broadcasting on the world feed for the U.S. Open] so I was actually out here at Winged Foot doing that with the USGA and had a couple of conversations on that trip," Bacon said of how landed with Golf Channel. "That slowly morphed into deeper conversations into possibly moving [to Connecticut] and getting a chance to do this. The moment [Golf Channel] offered it to me, and I would be a horrible car salesman or anybody in sales. I said yes basically as the words were coming out of their mouth."
The show will air Wednesday-Sunday and lead Golf Channel into its live golf coverage. "It is a bit of a bridge on tournament days," said Bacon. "Wednesday feels very [much like] a set up day where you are preparing people for the week. For instance this week we have a whole bunch of golf - we have European Tour, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, and Champions Tour so there is a lot to touch on in a two-hour show."
For the complete interview with Shane Bacon click below to listen.
Since its founding in 1995, by Joe Gibbs and the late Arnold Palmer, Golf Channel has made its home in Orlando, where Palmer was also based. It grew from 10,000 subscribers to an audience in 70 countries and nine languages. Comcast, NBC’s parent, took ownership of the network in 2003. NBCUniversal opened the Stamford studio a decade ago, enticed partly by Connecticut tax incentives, which are said to have played a factor with this move as well.
“The State of Connecticut has been in partnership with NBC Sports since 2012 when they first consolidated operations in Stamford,” said George Norfleet, Director of Connecticut’s Office of Film, Television & Digital Media. “We believe the successful growth of their sports platforms have allowed for the continued leveraging of production efficiencies and led to making Stamford the new home of Golf Channel. We welcome this addition.”
Severe budgetary pressure, the state’s enticements and a state-of-the-art production studio here contributed to the latest move, according to network releases and Golf Channel insiders. The network experienced increasing financial pressure as it renewed expensive contracts to broadcast the Olympics, NFL football and the PGA Tour, and will reportedly save tens of millions of dollars as part of the revamping.
According to reports by the Orlando Business Journal and the Stamford Advocate, Golf Channel at its peak employed more than 1,000 people including digital properties. Several hundred were part of the broadcast operation. Others worked for GolfNow, the tee time service acquired by Golf Channel in 2008, and GolfPass, a golf content and travel membership program. Those jobs remain in Orlando.
The new line-up of Golf Channel programming will encompass far fewer in-studio programs, favoring live and replayed coverage of tournaments, including the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Champions Tour, European Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, and college events. There will be fewer Golf Channel-produced documentaries, and in-studio instruction will be curtailed. The 10-year run of the popular David Feherty interview show was recently discontinued. Expect also to see more frequent airing of movies licensed by Golf Channel such as Caddyshack, Tommy's Honor, among others.
In many ways, Connecticut is a natural fit for Golf Channel, being close to New York and the center of advertising sales. Connecticut has long been a hub of golf media. For decades, Golf Digest and Golf World magazines were located here (in Norwalk and Wilton) and many of its editors, including Digest's Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde and Editorial Director Max Adler, a frequent competitor in CSGA events, live in the state.