TV blog: Time to add 2nd screen with analysis, without announcers

Nov 29, 2017; New Providence, The Bahamas; Tiger Woods talks to the media after a pro-am for the Hero World Challenge golf tournament at Albany. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

TV blog: Time to add 2nd screen with analysis, without announcers

Golf on TV

TV blog: Time to add 2nd screen with analysis, without announcers

Shortly after the 2011 passing of CBS golf producer Frank Chirkinian, still probably the most consequential figure in TV production of the modern game, anchor Jim Nantz told Golfweek about the marching orders Chirkinian gave him when he joined the CBS crew.

“Don’t tell me what I can see on the screen,” Nantz recalled Chirkinian saying. “This is a visual medium, son. This isn’t radio. A guy misses a putt, if I ever hear you say the guy missed a putt, I’m going to come out of the truck, I’m going to climb up the tower and I’m going to strangle you.”

Sadly, much of televised golf revolves around exactly what Chirkinian despised: announcers saying that this player blocked his drive, that player pulled his approach and that player’s putt “came up short.” How often do we hear that one?

With the return of Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge, I was looking for something more substantial. So I spent the first round in Golf Channel’s analyst viewing room with Brandel Chamblee, Frank Nobilo and Trevor Immelman. (I discussed this last week in a blog that can be found on Golfweek.com.)

I was simply eavesdropping on their conversation as they watched Woods, and I found myself wishing other viewers could have shared my experience. Their level of insight went far beyond anything I heard during the following three days watching the traditional coverage.

The analogy that came to mind is one that Nobilo, who is a wine connoisseur, might appreciate. If they could pour their collective golf knowledge into a wine barrel, they would fill it to the brim. But within the structure of a live TV show – even an hour-long post-game show – they’re only able to serve a glass or two before its time to cut off viewers.

That made me wonder if there’s a more efficient way to share their knowledge with viewers. From time to time, I’ve broached the idea of testing anchor-less coverage – just smart golf guys talking golf. There wouldn’t be any play-by-play because we can see what’s happening, but there might be a need for enhanced graphics.

There’s some precedent for this. Three months ago I pointed to an MLB Network experiment called a SABRcast – a play on sabermetrics – in which four analysts “called” a game in San Francisco from a studio in New Jersey. They didn’t do play-by-play; instead, their conversation was topical, based heavily on analytics. The conversation was smart and insightful, just as it was last week as Chamblee, Nobilo and Immelman watched Woods.

So the question becomes, how do you deliver that to viewers, giving them the same experience I had?

Just spitballing here, but one alternative would be to offer viewers a digital alternative to the traditional coverage, much like what we already see during major championships. If you want to watch the regular coverage, turn on your TV. If you want to hear what guys like Chamblee, Nobilo and Immelman are discussing, call up the Golf Channel app and listen to their spontaneous observations on a second screen.

They wouldn’t be constrained by time or circumstances because they wouldn’t be wedded to traditional play-by-play. If Chamblee wants to do a deep dive into the statistical impact Woods has on his playing partners’ scoring averages, he can do that. If Immelman wants to take a couple of minutes to demonstrate the problems he sees in Woods’ chipping, he can do that.

If Nobilo wants to go big picture on the meaning of Woods’ return, he can do that. If you wanted to geek it up with ShotLink and historical data, perhaps someone like Golf Channel’s Justin Ray, whose known for his stats acumen, could sit in.

All of this is theoretical – just a brainstorming exercise. But I know if I had that option as a viewer, I’d mute the TV and call up the second screen.

(Note: This story appears in the December 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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