If you haven’t heard, golf recently got a new game. And its name is the Back9 Network.
While the rumors and buzz have been circulating around the golf world for the past 20 months or so, the true “coming out party” took place at this winter’s PGA Merchandise show as the new network undauntedly pitched their booth right next to incumbent competitor, the Golf Channel.
|Anna Rawson looks to attract some new eyeballs|
Unlike the Golf Channel, however, Back9 is positioned as a lifestyle and entertainment network, looking well beyond tournament golf. With Clint Eastwood as creative board chairman, the network plans to deliver original content that ranges from a magazine show hosted by model and LPGA player, Anna Rawson, to Extreme Golf with celebrities and a Bachelor-style dating series.
At the core of the network’s strategy is a commitment to grow the game of golf by showing the less intimidating, diverse, and more accessible sides of the game and its accompanying lifestyle. For example, comedian Jackie Flynn will host a show where he brings a public course spirit to some of the most exclusive courses in the world.
Despite golf’s global growth – particularly in Asia – and its new faces like Rickie Fowler, the game still struggles with its exclusive image and the fierce competition for attention in the sports and entertainment category. Additionally, the baby boomer population, on which so much of the industry depends, isn’t going to be around forever. Industry players, particularly the equipment manufacturers, hope that Back9 can address these issues to maintain a long-term customer base.
But launching a cable network isn’t easy and the risks are many. Just ask Oprah. Cable industry consolidation has made it harder for newcomers to compete and even someone with Oprah’s loyal consumer base failed to accurately understand the fickle, consumer side of the equation.
The challenge for Back9 will be to provide engaging content for a non-niche, mass audience that is strapped for time and has multiple viewing options on multiple platforms. Sure, the golf industry likes the idea, as does any advocate of growing the game (like me). It’s easy for us to drink the Kool-aid. But what about everyone else? Does the research show sufficient demand for Back9’s content? Can they be the agent of change that the industry desperately needs and pave the way for growth? We will surely see.