Dec
20
2010
Still a Wedge Between Golf Channel, DirecTV
By Stephanie Wei under General

DirecTV could stop carrying the Golf Channel at the end of the year, according to a report by Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand. The Comcast-owned network’s deal with the satellite provider ends on Dec 31 and both sides are still far from settling on a deal.

If the Golf Channel and DirecTV can’t pan out a deal, it would also take away approximately 15 million subscribers. Which is, you know, kinda a lot of viewers. Here’s the scoop via SBJ:

DirecTV pays about 25 cents a subscriber a month to carry Golf Channel on its Choice Xtra tier, sources say. Golf Channel is looking for a license fee increase and is trying to keep DirecTV from putting it on a less-distributed tier.

DirecTV and Golf Channel still are negotiating and could reach an agreement by the end of the year. Or they could agree to an extension that would leave Golf Channel on DirecTV without a new deal.

But Golf Channel’s timing could not be worse. This fall, DirecTV executives have been open about their plans to drop less popular channels and already have showed that they plan to take a hard line in dealing with them. DirecTV already dropped two Comcast-owned channels, Versus and G4, this year over rate increases and channel positioning. Comcast also owns Golf Channel, and if it gets dropped by DirecTV, the move could signal another sign of a larger dispute between the country’s two biggest distributors: DirecTV and Comcast.

Catch that? — “less popular channels.” Ouch. But perhaps this transcends beyond the small population of the country that watches Golf Channel (and no, I’m not counting those that tune in to induce naps). Do I sense some bad blood between Comcast and DirecTV?

DirecTV has dropped Comcast-owned channels before. It kept Versus off its system for 6 1/2 months, from September 2009 to March 15, just before the NHL playoffs. That caused Versus to lose the country’s second biggest distributor for most of the NHL season. DirecTV dropped G4, a channel geared toward the video game culture, last month and that dispute is continuing. DirecTV still has not cut a deal for Comcast’s regional sports network in Portland.

Meanwhile, Comcast refuses to allow DirecTV access to its regional sports network in Philadelphia.

Then there’s the issue of very few people watching golf in the off-season.

But Golf Channel’s viewership, particularly out of season, has been low. In November, the channel ranked 78th of 90 cable networks in total-day viewership, averaging 55,000 viewers on a 24-hour basis. Of sports channels, only Fox Soccer, MLB Network and NBA TV ranked lower.

Golf Channel ranked 80th out of 88 prime-time networks in November, averaging 83,000 viewers in prime time, ahead of Fox Soccer and MLB Network.

Hey, at least golf is more popular than the MLB and NBA and there are eight channels ranked worse.

Wait, is this why the Golf Channel aired Point Break, a Keanu Reeves classic, on loop last weekend? (I lost count of how many readers/Twitter people, some of which aren’t even golf fans, asked me about that — I mean, like I should know!) I thought those running the show in Orlando were taking a nap or sunning themselves on their yachts (nothing wrong with that). Or it was a pre-game show to Big Break. Groan! Actually, Kelly Tilghman tweeted a very logical explanation.

As Keanu would say, “You gonna jump or jerk off?” Radical, brah!