2004: TGC could benefit from merger

The cat-and-mouse game between acquisitive Comcast Corp. and its current prey, The Walt Disney Co., holds potential ramifications for The Golf Channel.

Marketers assessing the deal have speculated that The Golf Channel, which is owned by Comcast, potentially would be a big winner under the proposed merger, according to Richard Linnett, a television reporter and columnist with Advertising Age.

Linnett said Comcast might place The Golf Channel and Outdoor Life, another of its cable networks, under the ESPN umbrella if it acquires Disney. Theoretically, that would compel cable companies to offer The Golf Channel, currently available in nearly 60 million domestic homes, as part of its basic cable package.

“(The Golf Channel) would be more attractive under that scenario,” Linnett said. “The company that owns them doesn’t have a strong reputation as a content provider.” A combination with Disney, however, “would bring it into a family of very prestigious content providers.”

While a combination with Disney could prove beneficial, The Golf Channel has prospered in the age of broadband and digital cable, “which is all about catering to different tastes,” said Diane Mermigas, contributing editor of Television Week.

Disney’s board last week rejected Comcast’s overture, and Comcast appears in no hurry to make a new bid. Other potential suitors also have been mentioned, such as InterActiveCorp, Liberty Media Corp. and even Microsoft Corp.

Comcast, meanwhile, apparently has been a party to preliminary discussions about creating a sports channel that would compete with ESPN, according to Mermigas. No specifics have emerged, but such a move, still only in the speculative phase, could impact Comcast’s plans for The Golf Channel.

– Martin Kaufmann

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