NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
Alex Kaplan – Discovery Golf President
Discovery Inc., best known for its entertainment networks like Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network and Animal Planet, has made a major splash in the golf media world in a relatively short time.
Discovery Golf has been one of the game’s biggest movers and shakers, with a 12-year deal to license the PGA TOUR’s international media rights, a live and on-demand global video streaming service called GolfTV, and an exclusive content partnership with Tiger Woods. On top of that, Discovery in 2019 acquired one of the most visible media properties in golf by buying former NGF Golf 100 brand Golf Digest from Conde Nast.
“We’re all-in with golf, and we’re all-in because we think there’s a big opportunity with the game” said Discovery Golf President Alex Kaplan.
Kaplan says golf is a strategic fit with its transition into a direct-to-consumer digital company that targets passionate audiences of “superfans” in various content genres. Kaplan, who joined Discovery in January 2017 after holding senior leadership positions at the NBA and DIRECTV/AT&T, says there isn’t a better example of that superfan vertical than golf.
“People love to watch it and some of the biggest stars in the world, but people don’t just like to watch the pros, they like to engage themselves,” he added. “They play it, they buy equipment, they bet on it, they travel around it, they learn about it with classes and instruction, so that whole ecosystem is really interesting for us. We love golf and we love how golf fits into the business model we are evolving into.”
Discovery is expected to invest $2 billion over it’s 12-year media deal with the PGA TOUR, which includes licensing both multi-platform and traditional TV rights internationally. GolfTV, which is only available outside the U.S., is the result of collaboration between Discovery and the PGA TOUR.
Meanwhile, the acquisition of Golf Digest was a major boost for Discovery’s visibility in the U.S., where it continues to publish its popular monthly print magazine. While Discovery will also assume the global licenses for editions serving nearly 70 countries, Golf Digest most significantly provides a leading U.S. platform, one that reaches golf fans with not only print content, but instructional videos, equipment advice, course rankings, travel destinations, online bookings and more.
Kaplan says Golf Digest is an “amazing content engine” that gives Discovery incredible expertise and credibility in many components of the golf ecosystem, whether its reading about the game, playing it, learning about it or buying equipment, apparel and other golf-related products and experiences.
“What we’re going to be doing is investing in people, new features and functionality, digital platforms on the technology side,” Kaplan said. “Certainly, in years to come, I think it’s going to be bigger, better and more interesting.”
Woods, who in the past has been known for being so closed off and private, is now the face of what Discovery Golf is doing from a player-partnership standpoint.
“He moves the needle for golf like nothing else in the game,” said Kaplan.
“Tiger wanted to do this with us because he wanted to tell his story, in his own voice, in a really authentic way. He’s never done that before. That hasn’t been his style. He’s at a different point in his career and life, and that was part of the draw. Obviously, the guy doesn’t need the money. He loves what we’re doing and the idea of the golf ecosystem. He’s behind the idea of a platform he can help us build to tell his story direct to fans in a really compelling way.”
Discovery has made significant early strides toward it’s ambitious goal to become the leading golf media platform in the world.
The partnerships with the PGA TOUR and Tiger Woods are hugely significant and the acquisition of such a well-known property in Golf Digest further demonstrates the company’s belief in, and commitment to, the game of golf.
Discovery hasn’t been much involved in U.S. sports previously, but was a leading multi-sport channel across Europe with a massive distribution, including the Olympic Games throughout Europe and a smaller sports business in Asia. The focus on golf is an effort to go deep with a single sports vertical — one that has an engaged group of fans who avidly watch, play and spend.