GolfTV is an over-the-top subscription partnership between Discovery and the PGA Tour, currently serving as the international distributor for PGA Tour events. GolfTV does have one important partner, though: Tiger Woods, who agreed last year to a content partnership that so far hasn’t amounted to much beyond post-round interviews.
That’s going to change soon, though, as Discovery executive David Zaslav announced yesterday that Woods had agreed to a series of head-to-head matches around the world that will be available exclusively on GolfTV.
Speaking at the CAA World Congress of Sports, Zaslav said the first match has already been planned for Tokyo and that most of the events will take place outside the United States. Woods and GolfTV, Zaslav said, will also “play around with the format.”
“Should it be one-on-one? Two-on-two? Should we have two matches going on at the same time? But he’s all in,” Zaslav said.
If this sounds a bit like the premise for The Match, last fall’s Turner-helmed pay-per-view showdown between Woods and Phil Mickelson that was hampered by a variety of technical issues and poor play, that’s not an accident! The Match may have struggled a bit out of the gate, but it did still generate plenty of viewer interest, and was by and large some decent, harmless Black Friday entertainment. Zaslav acknowledged the influence:
“We looked at it and said ‘[that’s] pretty interesting,'” Zaslav said. “One million people came in and wanted to watch it—could we improve on it? What could we do? So we’re going to do a number of those type events [and] Tiger’s excited about it.”
Of course, this development does cast some doubt over the future of The Match as a franchise, which was the stated goal at the time. This news doesn’t necessarily quite kill it off, though, because as of now, GolfTV isn’t available in the United States. This obviously makes sense; there’s not much on offer in their catalog beyond PGA Tour rights, and American streaming rights are either covered by television deals or part of NBC Sports Live Gold.
But it’s not hard to imagine GolfTV making these matches available to American viewers, perhaps via a one-time payment to stream the event, through some other pay structure, or through sublicensing it to a U.S. channel or service (which could even be Turner). And as with most non-major golf events, it’s hard to see much of a future for The Match as a franchise (at least when it comes to head-to-head golf) without Tiger’s involvement. Phil Mickelson isn’t going to bring in big viewership on his own, and there’s a big step down from Phil to the next tier of famous players, despite there being more good players in golf than ever before.
Of course, plans for future editions of The Match may have been dead in the water anyway. After all, the recent shakeup at Turner related to the AT&T acquisition included the exit of Turner president David Levy, who was one of the driving forces behind the inaugural version. It’s unclear how new sports supervisor Jeff Zucker feels about the concept.
There are obviously a lot of moving parts with these new GolfTV matches, especially when it comes to how they’ll be available in the U.S. But whenever Tiger Woods is involved with a project, it has the potential for crossover interest. That’s a big get for Discovery and GolfTV. Hopefully for the sake of viewers, the matches wind up being available in the U.S. and end up being played at a higher level than The Match.