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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Eyeing Younger Audiences, Golf Turns to New Broadcasters

  • This week's Korn Ferry Tour event is exclusively streaming on the Barstool.tv platform.
  • Barstool is venturing into golf after previously broadcasting college football and basketball.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Barstool Sports is exclusively streaming this week’s Korn Ferry Tour event in Chicago, the digital media brand’s first foray into golf broadcasting. 

Barstool.tv will show all four rounds of the NV5 Invitational from Glen Club Golf Course, following up on recent presentations of college football and basketball, as well as amateur fighting.

In a welcome turn of events, the PGA Tour will get some much-needed exposure for a tournament from its feeder tour that otherwise will see only six of its 26 events broadcast this year on Golf Channel.

“They’ve really taken this very seriously,” Korn Ferry Tour president Alex Baldwin told Front Office Sports. “Which I’m really impressed with and really appreciate.” The broadcast is co-produced by Barstool and PGA Tour Entertainment and features over 90 people on-site — about 20-plus from Barstool and 70-plus from PGATE. The process has been “very collaborative,” Baldwin said.

Personalities from Barstool’s popular golf podcast “Fore Play” will headline the broadcast, including Sam “Riggs” Bozoian, who will host alongside a play-by-play announcer, analysts, and on-course reporters.

It’s a trial run of sorts, as both the PGA Tour and Barstool Sports hope to have a successful pilot that potentially turns into a long-term partnership.

Barstool.tv

Practice Makes Perfect

Barstool isn’t paying a rights fee, said Baldwin, but is investing in the production, which is much larger than a typical KFT event. For example, other KFT broadcasts are produced remotely from St. Augustine, while this week’s event has an on-site production truck, an on-course set, 14 cameras, and integrated player heart rate data via Whoop. The Tour had “been talking to a number of different streaming partners and exploring options” as it sought to expand the Korn Ferry Tour’s reach, Baldwin said. 

Impressed with the company’s broadcasts of the Arizona Bowl and the Barstool Sports Invitational college basketball tournament, PGA Tour VP of gaming Scott Warfield suggested reaching out to Barstool after positive interactions with parent company Penn Gaming. Further connections had previously been made via Barstool’s merchandise line with the PGA Tour and the “Fore Play” squad’s featured role in the “PGA Tour 2K23” video game.

Conversations for the KFT collaboration began in December 2022, and the innovative deal was announced in May. “I was probably one of the last people to sign off on it, just because I didn’t know if we could do it,” Bozoian told FOS. He sees the opportunity as additive to ongoing efforts from both Barstool and the Tour: “If the Korn Ferry Tour hadn’t trusted us, it just wouldn’t be there.”

The excitement extends to players in the field, including Ben Kholes, who is No. 1 on the Korn Ferry Tour points list heading into this week. “They just have such a big reach,” Kholes told FOS, pointing to Barstool’s young demographic. “I think it’s only going to help promote this tour even more.”

Kholes hopes new and existing fans come away with a better appreciation of the talent level on the KFT. “Cuts are anywhere from four- to six-under at a lot of events we play,” he explained. “You can’t just come out here and be a scratch golfer and shoot a couple under par. You shoot two under par for two days, usually you’re probably gonna miss the cut.”

And the brighter spotlight can only be a good thing for player development. “That’s a great learning process for a lot of these guys,” said Kholes, who has already secured one of the 30 PGA Tour cards (for next season) up for grabs on the KFT. “You’re only going to see more media coverage as you move up.”

PGA Tour

Driving The Green

While nobody is suggesting that a Korn Ferry Tour event is must-have content, longtime sports media expert Chris Bevilacqua told FOS the Barstool collaboration is a “good start for them to try to put their product in front of that type of an audience.”

Barstool’s strong branding and younger fans are key factors. “I’m sure the Korn Ferry (Tour) is looking at it as a distribution outlet for an audience that they’d like to have access to their programming,” Bevilacqua said.

Outside of this week, when KFT events aren’t on Golf Channel, the only way to keep up with the action is on the tour’s social channels. Getting more coverage is a high priority. “I think six-to-10 events next year would be a huge home run,” Baldwin said.

For Barstool, it’s the more the merrier. “We’re treating it like a bonus,” Bozoian explained. “And if it goes well, hopefully we can showcase more and more golf going forward.”

Barstool.tv’s stream of Ohio-Wyoming in the Arizona Bowl garnered approximately 1 million viewers, 500,000 unique viewers, and maxed out at over 130,000 concurrently. Its Barstool Invitational tournament featuring Mississippi State, Akron, Toledo and the University of Alabama-Birmingham averaged 210,000 unique viewers per game. 

Meanwhile, in June, a Korn Ferry Tour Event — the BMW Charity Pro-Am — averaged 74,000 viewers during Saturday’s third round on Golf Channel.

Bevilacqua sees non-premium properties like pickleball, lacrosse, and Olympic sports as potential opportunities for Barstool to expand its streaming offerings.

“We’ve done football, we’ve done basketball, we’re gonna try to do golf,” Bozoian added. “I think if Barstool as a whole proves that we can handle broadcasting live events, then I think the sky’s the limit.”

A proper showcase this weekend will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

“We can take over and take on big events — and not just from a partnership standpoint, not just licensing our brand, but we can cover it top to bottom,” Bozoian said. “We can broadcast it, we can sell it, we can get fans to it.”

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