TV: The PGA has a great championship, but not a great TV product

PGA Championship

TV: The PGA has a great championship, but not a great TV product

Uncategorized

TV: The PGA has a great championship, but not a great TV product

By

Here are a few thoughts on an exhausting week that included nearly round-the-clock coverage of two major championships. I’ll have more thoughts specifically on the PGA Championship in my print column for Golfweek’s Aug. 8 issue.

>> Much of Sunday’s coverage seemed flat to me. Players were making a lot of pars, there weren’t any notable blow-ups, there weren’t any dramatic charges. Even the crowd seemed subdued for much of the day – not something often said of New York-area sports fans. Maybe it was the rain or the long days or perhaps the fact that players weren’t re-paired after the third round, so the energy might have been spread across the course. But there was some intrigue late on Sunday.

“The ending probably more than made up for the lack of drama earlier in the telecast,” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, when we spoke immediately after the final round Sunday night.

Near the end of play Sunday, I received an email from an executive at a rival network. He had been critical of some of CBS’ work during the PGA, but said, “They did a good job when it counted.”

McManus has been harping on technology for the past year; I noted early in the season that CBS had made advances in this area.

“We don’t like to take a backseat to anybody when it comes to technology,” McManus said.

I’ve liked CBS’ enhanced use of Trackman; I’ve been less enthusiastic about the Smartcart, which seems like little more than product placement for Microsoft Cloud.

At the PGA Championship, CBS offered its own spin on an innovation we first saw from Fox Sports at the U.S. Open – the use of the ball tracer superimposed on a hole graphic, next to a live shot of the player on the tee. This has been one of the best innovations of the year. CBS’ twist was to show the tracer from the fairway looking back at the tee, rather than vice versa.

This is the way the creative process typically works. Someone does something innovative, and others come along and put their own spin on it. It’s a beautiful process that slowly pushes the industry forward.

>> My big concern each year with the PGA Championship is that it feels less like a major than an expanded version of a regular PGA Tour event. The frequency of commercial breaks on the early TNT coverage and through much of CBS’ coverage drags down the live shows.

I don’t necessarily fault CBS for this. I’m not privy to CBS’ contract with the PGA of America, but I assume the PGA, as the rights holder, made a decision to accept a bigger fee in exchange for more commercial inventory. When I asked McManus about this, he said, “I don’t have a feeling that we really missed anything (because of commercial breaks).”

He later added, “That (the amount of commercial inventory) would be something that we certainly would talk to the PGA of America about. Our deal’s in place for three more years, but we have a regular, ongoing dialogue with the PGA, and that might be a subject that we talk about with the PGA, absolutely.”

The PGA really needs to address this. It has a great championship, but not a great TV product.

>> I will never speak ill of TNT’s Ernie Johnson, who quite possibly is the finest human being ever to sit behind a microphone and call a sports event. I will, however, suggest that TNT should make far better use of fellow anchor Brian Anderson in the future.

Anderson, who made his bones at Golf Channel, has been the voice of the Milwaukee Brewers since 2007. He moonlights in a number of other sports, including golf. I was reminded during the first two days of the PGA Championship that he’s really easy to listen to. If I were playing matchmaker, I’d suggest that Fox Sports should give Anderson a call about helping out on a few of its big U.S. Golf Association events.

>> No production is going to be error-free, but some errors are more glaring than others.

An example: A friend noticed that Jason Day’s tee shot on No. 6 landed in the exact same spot as Jimmy Walker’s tee shot on No. 5. What, you say?

At about 4:14 p.m. Eastern time, we saw what was described as Day’s tee shot on 6. I noticed something was odd when CBS’ Dottie Pepper said, “This is actually turning over – may need a little help to stay in the fairway up the left side.” But then we saw the ball land on the right edge of the fairway. (A few minutes later, we did, in fact, see Day hit his approach from the left rough.)

The next shot was of Walker hitting a 3-wood off the 5th tee and landing it on the right edge of the fairway. That was, in fact, Walker’s ball. You could tell it was the same ball because of the spectators in the background.

This is a hazard of running so many shots on tape. There are cameras on the tee, and others down the fairway to show the ball landing. The shot of Walker’s ball landing was attached to the replay of his tee shot and also Day’s.

Later, at 5:44 p.m., CBS went to break with a leaderboard showing the wrong score. The leaderboard said Walker was at -12. In fact, he was at -13 after two birdies, which CBS had just replayed.

>> A reader raised an interesting question about Saturday’s rain delay at the PGA: Rather than filling time with film of the 2015 PGA, why not replay Friday’s second-round coverage? The reader noted that many fans were working Friday and might not have seen the coverage, so why not show it again? It’s a valid question.

>> One of the pleasant surprises on TNT’s early PGA coverage was interviewer Amanda Balionis. Her questions typically were concise and pertinent to the player with whom she was speaking. And she didn’t sound scripted. If a player mentioned something about his putting, she followed up with a question that got the player to expand on his earlier comment.

Mike Weir also handled himself well as an on-course reporter for TNT during the first, second and fourth rounds. He got a little chatty when he was in the 18th tower on Saturday – that’s probably the first time anyone ever has described Weir as chatty – but he seemed comfortable and informative tracking players on the course.

>> I didn’t see as much of the Women’s British Open as I would have liked, but I caught some of the third-round coverage on Golf Live Extra while fighting off advancing age at the gym Saturday morning. Jerry Foltz was giving a clinic in on-course reporting with his insights on Shanshan Feng.

On the first hole, Foltz informed us that Feng has “the most repeatable swing I’ve ever seen”; that got my attention because you rarely hear that someone is “the most . . .” or “the best. . .” at anything. Foltz also said Feng had many idiosyncrasies: she flatly refuses to look at leaderboards; wears one glove from tee to green, and another for putting; and insists that her longtime caddie hand her a club before each shot rather than pulling it out of the bag herself (apparently a superstition). There was more, but suffice it to say, Foltz told viewers more about Feng just on the first hole than we learn from other on-course announcers covering PGA Tour players over the course of a season.

Producers routinely test new on-course announcers. They could do worse than to show those candidates a clip of Foltz’s work on the first hole as an example of how to do the job.

>> Foltz on Sunday describing Women’s British Open champion Ariya Jutanugarn: “She’s Laura Davies with a putter, Lydia Ko with length, and Michelle Wie without a swing thought. She’s the whole package.”

Latest

More Golfweek
Home