Will people pay to have Tiger Woods as a golf coach?
Discovery, which just struck a multiyear global content collaboration deal with the 14-time major championship winner, is betting the answer to that question is yes.
GolfTV, a new digital streaming service jointly created by Discovery and the PGA Tour, will feature videos fronted by Woods on everything from his practice routines, his tournament preparation, and how regular golfers can improve their games. GolfTV launches outside the United States in January.
While fans in the U.S. won’t be able to watch the Woods content on GolfTV, Discovery CEO David Zaslav told CNBC recently that the media giant has “optionality to partner with existing platforms or create their own” to service the domestic audience.
Zaslav, speaking to “Squawk Box” in New York City Wednesday, laid out the vision for GolfTV, as well as Discovery’s alliance with the PGA Tour. “What we’re trying to do is create a ‘golf Netflix,’ create an ecosystem where everyone in the world that likes golf can get everything they want on the phone or on EuroSport in Europe.”
In June, Discovery, the owner of EuroSport as well as many other networks like HGTV and Animal Planet, agreed to invest more than $2 billion for the global television and online rights to all PGA Tour media properties, including tournaments. The creation of GolfTV was part of that 12-year partnership with the Tour.
Bringing a “transformational figure” like Woods on board gives GolfTV a real boost, suggested Zaslav.
Woods is “playing great” and he’s “determined,” Zaslav said, adding that having Woods creating content for GolfTV is a “cherry on top of our golf strategy.”
Speaking from the Bahamas where Woods’ TGR Foundation was hosting the Hero World Challenge golfing competition, Woods told CNBC on Wednesday that “the world has changed and evolved very quickly with the advent of social media.” Creating exclusive video for the project is a “way for me to have direct connection to the fans,” the 42 year-old golf great said.
“I will show some stuff that is behind-the-scenes. But it’s controlled. It’s on my terms,” said Woods, who is guarded about his life away from the course.
“It’s not someone hopping over the fence invading my practice sessions. That’s what is sometimes feels like,” he added. “Somebody filming from the bush over there and posting it online. We’ve had that a few times at my home course.”
The new venture comes as Woods, who suffered for years from injuries and personal setbacks, is playing golf at a high level again. Even when his game was mediocre, Woods was a ratings draw, but his comeback culminated in a win at the Tour Championship in September. That was his first PGA Tour victory in five years.
Woods’ head-to-head, $9 million pay-per-view duel against longtime rival Phil Mickelson on Nov. 23 at Shadow Creek golf course in Las Vegas was also a hit, pulling in higher-than-expected viewership despite some technical glitches that led to customer refunds.
“It was just like the old days,” Woods told CNBC, five days after the showdown. “This is 20 years in the making of [Woods and Mickelson] going head-to-head.”
“The Match,” hyped like heavyweight boxing, was decided after 22 holes in Mickelson’s favor. “It was fun competing like that,” Woods said on CNBC. “It was not fun losing.”
The loss to Mickelson, notwithstanding, Woods’ recent form has golf fans wondering if he can tie or beat the record 18 major titles won by Jack Nicklaus. Woods, with 80 tour wins, already exceeds Nicklaus’ 73-win tally. Woods is only two behind the all-time tour victory holder, Sam Snead.