Golf Channel changes look for 2011
Golf Channel has jazzed up its graphics package for the 2011 season.
When the Hyundai Tournament of Champions comes on the air Thursday, viewers will see bolder imagery in highlights packages and more interactive data on leaderboards. The new graphics, developed in conjunction with Troika Design Group, a Hollywood, Calif., company, will be used on all tournaments produced by Golf Channel.
“We wanted to give the producers more elements to tell stories well,” said David Piccolo, Golf Channel’s creative director.
The most obvious change will be an expandable leaderboard that will open up to show a player’s scorecard or statistics such as greens in regulation and birdies. Producers will be able to call up expanded data on one player at a time, but can shift on the fly to another player.
Highlights packages will have a superhero feel – action shots of players set against billboards of their names in bold, block lettering. Piccolo said the objective was to raise Tour players’ visibility as networks have done with athletes in other sports.
“On the golf side, if it’s not Tiger (Woods) or Phil (Mickelson), it’s a harder sell,” Piccolo said. “So we needed to create graphics that really bring these guys to the forefront. We’re keeping them in their action poses, using really great photography. . . . How can we make these graphics come at you more and really showcase these guys?”
One of Golf Channel’s other objectives was more consistent branding of its tournament coverage. All Golf Channel-produced tournaments will open with the same new theme song, though with imagery that’s relevant to each tour. The Nationwide Tour, for instance, will use historic footage of modern-day stars who launched their careers on the minor-league circuit.
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Separately, the PGA Tour has indicated it is more receptive to allowing players to wear microphones during competition. But resistance continues among the players. As of this writing, none of the players at Hyundai had agreed to be mic’d up.
If players do wear microphones this season, their comments won’t air live; their comments will be reviewed by Golf Channel, then aired in taped packages later in the shows.
Bluntly, this is a huge missed opportunity for the Tour. Back in 2001, Commissioner Tim Finchem talked of his vision of the Tour being as popular in the U.S. as the NFL by 2020. Putting aside the fact that that’s an even bigger pipe dream now than it was 10 years ago, the players aren’t doing anything to help the cause by being so inaccessible.
Perhaps the NFL’s biggest marketing tool for decades has been NFL Films, which has glamorized the sport not just with amazing images, but by mic’ing up players and coaches for more than 40 years. That has allowed NFL Films to capture countless memorable moments over the past several decades and bring fans much closer to the game.
With TV negotiations starting later this year, I suspect that Finchem is going to have to lean on players – including his biggest stars – to wear microphones. The Tour needs to help Golf Channel and the networks deliver a much better broadcast product than viewers currently are getting.