Back9Network Drives DirecTV Linear Deal

Golf lifestyle service Back9Network has holed its first linear carriage agreement, with the Hartford, Conn.-headquartered company set to launch on DirecTV come Sept. 29.

Under the multiyear deal, the service, which has been operating digitally for more than 18 months as, will be located on channel 262, part of the top DBS provider’s digital select package, amidst such networks as A&E, AMC, Discovery Health & Fitness and FXX.

“This is the sweet spot for us. It’s better for us to be in with other lifestyle networks,” said Back9Network president Carlos Silva, who declined to discuss financial deal terms. “When we were showing the sizzle reel, DirecTV officials, said ‘This is not a sports network,’ That rings the bell for us a lifestyle network.”

Silva, the former president and COO of Universal Sports, said the company’s landing on national platform like DirecTV is “a big advantage,” serving as “a forum to show others in the TV business” what the network is all about.  He said Back9Network is in “active discussions” with other potential carriers, and expects the DirecTV deal to be the “first one of others” to come.

Unlike NBCUniversal’s Golf Channel, which has been on a ratings roll with its myriad presentations of the PGA and other tours around the globe, Back9Network trades on the lifestyle that surrounds the action taking place off the courses. Silva said the service is taking aim at the nation’s 25 million active golfers and the tens of millions more who live the lifestyle and enjoy what the sport has to offer outside the ropes and in the clubhouse.

Using the recent U.S. Open as an example, Silva said Back9Network provides viewers/users with a feel for the area around the famed Pinehurst No. 2 course. “We show the restaurants, where the golfers stay,” he said. “Most people will never get to visit Pinehurst, so this is a way for them to get a sense for what it’s all about.”

All told, the network -- which last month completed the acquisition of Swing by Swing that provides GPS mapping of 35,000 golf courses in 130 nations via a free golf app on both iOS and Android mobile platforms that has engaged over 2 million users -- plans to offer nearly 1,100 hour of original fare during its rookie season. Its programming game plan calls for 10 original primetime series, plus live morning, midday, and evening shows, as well as an array of golf lifestyle programming covering travel, real estate, food, fashion, courses and equipment.

Leading the way:  a trio of series, for which Back9Network has ordered eight episodes apiece.

The Ahmad Rashad Show will feature the former NFLer and interviewer taking viewers behind the scenes and away from the glare of the spotlight as he hangs out with the biggest names in sports and entertainment.

With Ball Hogs, the network is working with a Carolina company that will provide underwater vistas of men and women who risk their lives diving for “white gold” in ponds and lakes.

As for Golf Treasures, the spotlight shines on prominent collectors Ryan Carey and Bob Zafian, owners of Green Jacket Auctions. They travel the globe with eyes toward finding and acquiring some of the world’s rarest and most sought after golf memorabilia. 

“We may be looking at the first ever ticket to The Masters, or they may uncover a green jacket that was found in someone’s closet,” explained Silva, who had been serving as an adviser to Back9Network CEO and founder James Bosworth and COO and founder Reid Gorman, before joining the company in March 2013.

Back9Networks, with a financial assist from the State of Connecticut, is also in the midst of constructing a state-of-the-art studio configuration in downtown Hartford. People will be able to watch studio fare from the street level at Constitution Plaza, where Silva says there will also be “a Today show-like area.”

Studio work will be completed over the next few weeks, with rehearsals tentatively set for 30 days ahead of launch.

With the media company transitioning from digital to linear, Back9Network is expanding its work force from 50 by another 30-40. Silva said it is looking to hire a mix of staff and permalancers to help with production and editing disciplines.