Golf Channel Adds Live Friday Ryder Cup Coverage to Its Bag

Golf Channel, through NBC Sports Group’s deal with ESPN, will step onto a Ryder Cup course for live coverage for the first time, when the biennial competition between the U.S. and European teams unfolds at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland.

The team effort will showcase the entire event, with the 83 million subscriber Golf Channel providing vistas of the opening tee shot through NBC’s coverage of the final putt from Friday, Sept. 26 until Sunday, Sept 28.

Together, the networks -- including NBC’s live coverage of Saturday’s matches that historically have been presented on tape-delay when the competition was staged on The Continent -- will combine on 26.5 live hours of the 2014 Ryder Cup, the most ever for a European-hosted event. Additionally, all of NBC and Golf Channel's live coverage will be available for authenticated streaming through NBC Sports Live Extra and Golf Live Extra.

"It is exciting to expand our partnership with the PGA of America through NBC Sports Group's exclusive coverage of the 2014 Ryder Cup, one of the most prestigious events in all of sports," said NBC Sports Group chairman Mark Lazarus. "Today's announcement of providing complete coverage with the great addition of Golf Channel's exclusive Friday coverage, bolsters our ability to bring this spectacular event to an ever-growing audience. We value and look to continue to grow our PGA of America partnership."

Golf Channel’s move into live Ryder Cup coverage emanates from an exchange between NBC Sports Group and ESPN of highlights rights, including the worldwide leader gaining access to more Barclays Premier League action, and other considerations. The trade brings the rights to Ryder Cup Friday coverage full circle. Back in February 2006 during the Torino Winter Olympics, the parties engaged in a trade and rights fee deal in which ESPN scored the first day of the Ryder Cup, Olympics highlights and cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, while NBC gained the services of Al Michaels for its Sunday Night Football.

The agreement enables NBC Sports Group to synch up complete coverage of the Ryder Cup this year, before its new partnership with the PGA of America's takes effect. As part of that extension, Golf Channel will continue as  the exclusive cable home of the biennial competition through 2030, the longest rights contract in professional sports.

Golf Channel president Mike McCarley called the Ryder Cup “one of the most unique events in all of sports. There is passion and genuine displays of national pride for members on both teams. The players talk about pressure all the time, but there is an added pressure that comes with playing for your country.”

He said the acquisition is indicative of the support Comcast has given Golf Channel and NBC Sports since the merger with NBCUniversal in 2011. "Quantitatively and qualitatively the Ryder Cup is one of sports' premier properties. Since Arnold Palmer founded the network 20 years ago, this is certainly one of the most exciting announcements in Golf Channel history,” he said.  Speaking of the legend and leader of a legion of fans, Golf Channel will air Arnie, a three-part documentary, teeing off on April 13, the Sunday Night of The Masters

McCarley said Golf Channel and NBC will super-serve the prestigious competition, much as NBC Sports Group does with other big events like the Olympics and Kentucky Derby. He believes the Ryder Cup will drive a Nielsen bump, noting that there is “a real ratings lift” when Golf Channel airs live action tournament action from Australia, Asia and the Middle East during the overnight hours in the U.S.

For those not necessarily inclined to wake up in the wee hours, it is expected the networks will provide encore coverage.

NBC Sports Group 2014 Ryder Cup Air Times (all times Eastern)
Sept. 26                Day One         2:30 a.m.-1 p.m.    Golf Channel
Sept. 27                Day Two         3 a.m.-1 p.m.           NBC
Sept. 28                Final Day         7 a.m.-1 p.m.           NBC