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Golf Channel Stays on Course

For the decade it has existed, The Golf Channel’s executives haven’t changed their game: delivering mostly male, mainly older golfers to advertisers.

But it has added a few wrinkles. Its reality show Big Break, which gives new pro golfers a chance to get into pro tourneys, begins its fourth season on Sept. 13. Coming soon are more non-scripted series, including The Daly Planet, which chronicles the life of rogue golfer and PGA champ John Daly, and another edition of The Big Break. Golf also plans another reality series this fall, tentatively titled Natalie, which follows the career of 22-year-old Natalie Gulbis, a skilled golfer who is also attractive enough to have her own cheesecake calendar.

The goal of these shows is to further reveal the golf lifestyle to viewers who either live on the links or wish they did, says Gene Pizzolato, Golf Channel’s executive VP of advertising sales and new media.

The network’s audience is small, says Brad Adgate, senior VP/director of research for New York-based ad agency Horizon Media, averaging about 45,000 viewers in first quarter 2005. But it is pure: The Golf Channel has one of the highest concentrations of male viewers among competing cable networks, with approximately 72% (more than ESPN but less than ESPN Classic).

The audience does skew older, which is typically anathema to media buyers. But in Golf’s case, age means more green. More than half of the network’s total-day audience is about 35-65 years of age, and about a third of the audience makes more than $100,000 a year.

The Golf Channel’s market-research data shows its average viewer is a 50-year-old man who has a median household income of $76,115, is a homeowner, uses new technology, owns a luxury car and travels at least three times a year.

So although Golf, which has 70 million subscribers, gets advertisers selling sport-related product, also attracts other non-golf advertisers, such as British Airways.

The airline is sponsoring Big Break IV: USA vs. Europe, in a deal that includes product integration, Web placement and a sweepstakes. It makes sense: British Airways is carting the contestants to the Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland.

Says Claire Telling, British Airways manager, advertising and customer insight marketing, “Golfers will spend upwards of $700 for a weekend of golf. That’s the audience we want to target.”