The Back 9 Network is making an impression


It’s Golf Week in Connecticut and the business of golf is on the rise in the state, and drawing interest from some interesting corners.  With Constitution Plaza ripped up all around them and undergoing a transformation of its own, a new television network has taken out the entire 10th floor at the Phoenix Mutual Building and, if the unveiling was any indication, sunny skies and green courses are the limit for the Back 9 Network, devoted to the lifestyle of golf.  The visions of granduer begin with the offices themselves, decked out with valuable sports memorablia and antiques ranging from a completely restored 1920’s Harley Davidson and an operating original television set.  Lobbies and waiting areas are constructed to look like the great golf locker rooms, complete with lockers adorned with the names of Back 9 investors, including high profile names like Clint Eastwood and Geno Auriemma.  Computerized control rooms line one hallway with new studios being built across the plaza with wide open street views.  A “who’s who” from Connecticut and beyond, including touring pros like Padraig Harrington and J.J. Henry, and historic golf figures like Lee Elder, was on hand to take it all in at a grand coming out party last night.  The crowd was dotted with faces you know from television but can’t quite put names to.  It’s been 20 years since downtown Hartford has seen a party like the one that introduced the Back 9 Network to the market.  While it has yet to go beyond web access, national distribution contracts with at least three cable companies are reportedly on the near horizon.  Their plans are big, but network executives say, for whatever business reputation Connecticut may have, it is very media friendly, pointing to the success of ESPN.  Other startup media related businesses were represented last night, all with similar projections for the future, and there were reports of a very high profile figure who may be interested in getting into the business of business in Connecticut.  Executives with two of the startups have recieved phone calls in the past week from one Leigh Steinberg, who would like to set a meeting on behalf of his best known client.  Tiger Woods may have a natural interest in the Back 9 Network.  His niece, Cheyenne, is one of the on air personalities, but Tiger and his representatives are businessmen first, by all indications savvy ones, so their interest would stem from a belief the network is a sound investment.  Arnold Palmer learned a sound investment lesson with a startup of his own, The Golf Channel, which, for Arnie personally, turned an $8 million investment into a $90 million profit.  The CEO of another startup who has heard from Steinberg says his first question will be about where Tiger plans to be next June.  Then, he says, they’ll talk business.  After years of trying to get Tiger to come to Hartford to play golf, it may finally be the business of golf that attracts him.  If he comes for the business he may stay for the golf, and according to those in the sports media business in Connecticut, right now business is good.  From all outward appearances, I’d have to say they’re right.  With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.



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