GolfTV, the Discovery-owned golf streaming app, is “exceeding expectations” in the ten months since its launch as it continues to build out its ecosystem via a series of unique events featuring top players.

Advertisers may fret about the current surge in subscription streaming options, with HBO Max, WarnerMedia, Disney+ and Apple+ all jostling for position alongside Netflix (Sony, for its part, is shutting down its Playstation Vue service), but GolfTV offers a glimpse of an intriguing niche alternative.

“We are building a true golf ecosystem, developing an enhanced experience that incorporates everything consumers want around the game – from watching the action to instructional teaching, equipment advice, player aids and retail,” Alex Kaplan, Discovery Golf president and general manager, told The Drum.

The action initially revolved around a $2bn, 12-year deal that secured 150 PGA Tour competitions outside the US, but a possible future direction was indicated recently when the app set up a ‘skins’ game in Japan ahead of the country’s first ever PGA tournament, featuring four top players competing for a cash amount allocated to each hole, which rolled over when two or more players tied.

The opening holes were broadcast by linear TV partners before viewers were then directed to GolfTV where they could continue to watch for free as the players took on challenges like playing an entire hole with only one club (footage which subsequently played well on social media).

“We’d like to make this a franchise,” said Kaplan. “It was an experiment, but we are keen to learn what works.” A Discovery spokesperson would only say that “Initial indicators are that we exceeded our expectations on the platform and across our social platforms.”

In streaming terms, events such as this skins game point towards GolfTV developing something akin to the sort of original material that Netflix and Amazon Prime have created to attract subscribers.

Kaplan added that the digital environment is making it easier to reach “new, younger and more international communities of golf fans”.

And with Discovery having recently acquired Golf Digest magazine from Conde Nast, its golfing ecosystem is evolving into a platform that will offer a one-stop shop for brands wanting to reach what is traditionally seen as a “highly engaged, affluent audience”.

Other sports are in line for the same approach: Discovery’s majority stake in Play Sports Group, acquired in January, formed part of its plan to build a global cycling media ecosystem.

Sourced from The Drum, Discovery, Vox, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff