USGA Offers Free Streaming of U.S. Open Catalogue in Play to Build Fans

    • Organization launches service with Xumo, joining FuboTV, beIN SPORTS, and the PGA Tour.
    • Existing USGA Roku, Apple TV proprietary app has 50,000 downloads.

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The U.S. Golf Association is determined to distribute original programming on multiple streaming services to keep pace with other sports organizations and reach any and all fans.

However, the USGA is adamant about not wanting its offerings behind a paywall – opting instead to let consumers view golf content for free to reach a wider fan base that may be a part of an expanding group of cord-cutters in the U.S.

The USGA last week announced a partnership with Xumo, a free OTT service that is currently available in 45 million U.S. homes through existing relationships with smart TV manufacturers Samsung and LG.

USGA programming on Xumo ranges from archived TV broadcasts from past U.S. Opens to a dedicated live studio show for the golf major each summer. The USGA is also working to provide highlights of this year’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club to fans on the service.

“Golf is not one stadium. It’s 18 unique stadiums,” Navin Singh, the USGA’s chief commercial officer, said. “Players run through these holes all day. We want to leverage that content and provide a live format for the audience.”

This is not the USGA’s first crack at serving up fans a direct-to-consumer offering. The company launched a proprietary app in 2019 on Roku and Apple TV featuring identical programming to its Xumo product. The app has 50,000 downloads so far, with consumers averaging 30 minutes per use.

The USGA declined to share user activity data on Xumo, saying that it is still too early to report any meaningful metrics. But Xumo now provides a new target audience that the USGA has likely not engaged with in the past, Singh said.

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“We evaluated the marketplace, looked at Xumo and the partnerships they’ve been forming, and became excited about being on that platform,” he said.

Other sports organizations with OTT offerings on Xumo include the PGA Tour, FuboTV, beIN SPORTS, and the World Surf League. Xumo’s service also has news and entertainment programming.

Comcast acquired Xumo on February 25 for an undisclosed fee. The move follows CBS parent Viacom’s purchase of Pluto TV in January 2019 and Fox’s looming acquisition of Tubi – both of which are also free apps for consumers to use. 

Next month, Comcast’s NBCUniversal will also introduce its latest OTT offering, Peacock. NBC Sports Gold, launched in June 2016, is the company’s other dedicated OTT product. Xumo will continue operating as an independent business, Comcast said.

READ MORE: Peacock to Challenge Streaming Landscape, Including NBC Sports Gold

“Adding the USGA continues to grow our sports vertical with leagues and organizing bodies bringing premium sports programming directly to our audience,” Stefan Van Engen, Xumo’s SVP of content programming and acquisitions, said. “There is a growing base of fans who are tuning in to our sports vertical that before Xumo has not been as widely available directly to them.”

The USGA’s OTT offering on Xumo will not be ad-supported. The organization will receive a 50/50 revenue split from ads sold by Xumo on the service. Fox owns the broadcast rights for the U.S. Open through 2026. The USGA’s new Xumo app is strictly an engagement play and intends to complement linear offerings on the network.

“If I’m the programming guy at Xumo, I’m calling all of these sports properties to convince them to distribute with us,” Tom Richardson, head of strategy and development at Mercury Intermedia, an app development company, and professor at Columbia University, said. “Content is king and distribution is queen. Companies all sit around and think about how to distribute content because of the diversification of devices consumers use.”