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Rory McIlroy, NBC Sports team up for Golfpass

Consumers will be able to purchase a subscription that includes access to courses, products and on-demand instructional videos.

Rory McIlroy, teeing off at the second tee

Rory McIlroy, teeing off at the second tee during the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton on Monday, June 15, 2018 Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

For most sports media outlets, showing and/or talking about the competition is enough for fans. But golf is not like most sports, in that a significant percentage of its avid fans also play the game.

NBC Sports Group hopes to tap into that reality with its planned announcement on Tuesday of a new subscription product called “Golfpass,” in partnership with Rory McIlroy, one that is highly unusual for a sports media company.

The idea is to extend NBC’s association with golf beyond the broadcast network and Golf Channel to include access to courses, products, video lessons and the like.

It’s all for a price, of course. The digital product costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year.

“Universally, you care about your game more than you care about anybody else’s game,” NBC Sports’ golf president, Mike McCarley said at a promotional lunch in Manhattan. “So what we’ve done is we’ve built a business around this lifestyle of golf.”

He called it “a direct-to-consumer membership that’s built all around that connection to the game, that lifestyle, the game of golf and that concept that everybody’s favorite golfer is themselves.”

McIroy said he hopes to build on the legacy that Golf Channel co-founder Arnold Palmer started when the television channel was announced 25 years ago, but with a 21st century approach.

“I think he would be very proud that I’ve taken on this role,” said McIlroy, who added, “I sort of look at this like ‘Golf Channel 2.0.’’”

McCarley said the service has five elements: Playing, including a free round each month on weekdays at select courses. Watching, through a video archive. Travel, in the form of credits at resorts. Shopping, for equipment. And learning, through on-demand instructional videos.

The last always has been part of Golf Channel’s offerings, something rare outside golf.

“You’re not watching ESPN or MLB Network for the game and then the next show they’re going to teach you how to hit  a 95-mile-an-hour fastball,” McCarley said. “That doesn’t happen. That’s kind of the unique nature of the game that lends itself to this.”

McIlroy, a four-time major champion, was scheduled for a series of promotional interviews this week, starting with NBC’s “Tonight Show” on Monday.

Among his exclusive contributions to “Golfpass” will be a podcast with TV and radio personality Carson Daly.

“Golfpass” faces a crowded field of sports-related subscription services. The business rationale is to connect with some of the 20 million or so avid golfers worldwide willing and able to pay for more content.

But NBC and McIlroy also hope to grow the game, in particular by reaching young-skewing golfers, or potential ones.

“I’ve always wanted to help people understand or appreciate why it was such a big part of my life,” McIlroy said.

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