Golf Channel revamps executive staff

Fresh off its best year of viewership since its 1995 launch, Golf Channel is starting 2012 by shaking up its executive lineup.

Tom Stathakes, senior vice president, production, programming and operations, has left Golf Channel. Stathakes at one time was viewed as a candidate to run Golf Channel, but lost out to former NBC executive Mike McCarley, who was appointed as the channel’s president in February 2011. Since that time, industry sources who have dealings with Golf Channel have been anticipating Shathakes’ departure. 

Stathakes will serve as a consultant to NBC Sports Group, Golf Channel’s parent company, according to a Dec. 28 memo from McCarley to Golf Channel’s staff. Golfweek obtained a copy of the memo.

Much of Stathakes’ duties will be filled by Tom Knapp, who had been Golf Channel’s vice president of strategic partnerships before leaving in 2010 to become president and general manager of XOS Digital Media. Knapp returns to Golf Channel as senior vice president, programming. Knapp has a diverse television background, having started in consumer research before moving into sales with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel.

At least one more major hire appears imminent. Golf Channel apparently is close to naming a new senior vice president, production. The identity of that person is not yet known.

These moves were announced as Golf Channel completed its best-ever year of viewership in 2011. Total viewership last year increased 3 percent over 2009 – the best previous year – and 30 percent over 2010. The first and fourth quarters of 2011 were the highest-rated quarters in Golf Channel’s history. Presidents Cup week in November was the highest-rated week ever for the channel.

Viewership increased in 2011 for the major tours aired on Golf Channel: up 23 perent for the PGA Tour, 30 percent for the LPGA, 23 percent for the European Tour and 16 percent for the Champions Tour.

In his Dec. 28 memo, McCarley announced several other personnel moves. Andrea Starkey has been hired to serve as vice president, strategic partnerships. She will report to Knapp. Starkey comes from the LPGA, where she had been director of business development.

Gene Pao has been hired as vice president, marketing, reporting to Regina O’Brien, senior vice president, marketing. Pao most recently worked for Fox Sports Media Group in Los Angeles, where he was vice president of new media and international development for Fuel TV. 

New duties also were announced for two holdovers.

Keith Allo, vice president, original productions and development, will be responsible for expanded production of new shows domestically and internationally. Golf Channel plans to add several new instructional shows later this month and a new original series in May.

Finally, Will McIntosh was promoted to senior vice president of business development and strategy for GolfNow, Golf Channel’s ubiquitous tee-time service. 

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