NBC Sports borrows from Amazon Prime to launch new GolfPass subscription service

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NBC Sports’ Golf Channel is partnering with four-time major champion Rory McIlroy to debut a subscription service that will give customers one round of golf a month, more than 4,000 hours of instructional videos and discounts at resorts and clubs.

GolfPass, which NBC is officially launching on Tuesday, will cost $9.99 per month or $99 per year. It’s designed for people who already play golf but could use additional incentive to hit the links.

It’s NBC’s latest effort to seek revenue beyond the traditional pay-TV bundle by experimenting with a direct-to-consumer subscription. While GolfPass has Netflix-like elements, it’s a closer parallel to Amazon Prime, said Will McIntosh, Golf Channel’s executive vice president, at a press briefing in New York on Monday. The purpose is to encourage hobbyists to play more golf as well as giving them additional viewing options.

“It’s sort of like, for me, like Golf Channel 2.0,” McIlroy said at a press briefing Monday. “If you’re going to start a golf business, you probably wouldn’t do a 24-7 TV station or network like what happened 25 years ago.”

Included in the package is a round of golf each month at one of 7,000 global golf courses that partner with online booking company GolfNow, which is also owned by NBCUniversal. They’ll receive a dozen golf balls from TaylorMade, a provider of equipment for McIlroy, and a variety of discounts on golf resorts, apparel and accessories.

While no live events will be broadcast on the GolfPass app, archived rounds and more than 4,000 on-demand instruction videos, including several from McIlroy and his coach, Michael Bannon, will be available to subscribers,

A premium membership, GolfPass+, costs $199 per year and includes additional benefits such as waived booking fees, cancellation protection and extra discounts.

Discovery and Tiger Woods announced a media partnership in November through Discovery-owned GolfTV meant to give viewers behind-the-scenes access to Woods and instructional videos from the 14-time major champion. McIlroy, who was the PGA player of the year in 2012 and 2014, isn’t a fan of that approach. McIlroy said he noticed even more cameras than normal following Woods at a tournament last week and found them to be “intrusive.”

“When I’m at golf tournaments, I’m 100 percent there,” McIlroy said. “There are boundaries to this. I’ll provide as much content as you want, but I’m trying to win golf tournaments and cement my legacy by winning the biggest tournaments in the world.”

McIlroy is providing instructional and autobiographical videos for GolfPass and will co-host an exclusive GolfPass podcast with Carson Daly, which he hopes to release once a month. But he said his contributions to the service won’t affect his training regimen or his play.

Disclosure: CNBC, NBC, GolfPass and GolfNow are all part of NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast.

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