Johnny "Could make golf more fun to hear than to watch"

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Great stuff from AP’s Doug Ferguson on the retirement of Johnny Miller, including this gem on Craig Parry that lit up the switchboards.

''The last time you see that swing is in a pro-am with a guy who's about a 15-handicap,'' Miller said. ''It's just over the top, cups it at the bottom and hits it unbelievably good. It doesn't look ... if Ben Hogan saw that, he'd puke.''

Parry got the last word, of course, holing out a 6-iron from 176 yards in a playoff to win.

Except that wasn't the last word.

''I was in Ponte Vedra going back to the Honda Classic, and my phone is blowing up,'' said Tommy Roy, the longtime golf producer at NBC. ''It started percolating down in Australia, and you had radio stations demanding Johnny Miller be fired.''

Jaime Diaz looks back on Miller’s career in this Golf Central essay:

Miller joined Golf Central Wednesday to discuss his impending farewell at the 2019 Waste Management Open:

On Golf Central we debated his greatest legacy: player or broadcaster. I said player. Matt Adams said broadcaster. You decide!

Johnny Miller Really Is Retiring To Spend More Time With His Family

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I’m getting weepy just thinking how weepy Johnny Miller will be at the 2019 Waste Management Open when he hangs up his IFB, questions his last club selection and takes his well, well, well earned retirement to really, truly genuinely spend more time with his family.

From G.C. Digital’s item and Golf Central where Miller will be talking more extensively on Tuesday’s show about his plans after nearly 30 incredible years as the most concise, prepared and opinionated analyst golf television has known.

“The call of being there for my grandkids, to teach them how to fish. I felt it was a higher calling,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “The parents are trying to make a living, and grandparents can be there like my father was with my four boys. He was there every day for them. I'm a big believer that there is a time and a season for everything.”

Johnny To Retire, Azinger To Replace While Still Working For Fox

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The Forecaddie with fantastic news for golf fans grappling with the thought of Johnny Miller retiring and no standout, no-brainer replacements.

Except one.

Will we get a Paul Azinger-Tirico-Faldo cameo of their old ESPN days on some weekday telecast on Golf Channel (Faldo can’t work on NBC, I don’t believe)? Maybe at The Open?

Brilliant Move Or Fox Redux? Sorting Out PGA Of America's New TV Deal

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I had trouble not recalling the many apparent similarities with the USGA and Fox TV deal in reading today’s rollout of the PGA Championship’s CBS renewal/ESPN television deal.

There is the 11-year deal term, which remains confounding on so many levels given how much more lazily entities perform when not incentivized by an expiring contract.

There is the PGA of America turning to an organization—ESPN—that had all but given up doing golf except for the Masters rights, earned as much through their reach as their devotion to golf.

There is ESPN primarily looking to lock up new content deals to fuel a new product. In the PGA’s case it’s ESPN+ coverage. For Fox with the USGA, it was Fox Sports 1.

There are the usual proclamations of getting special attention to under-covered events like the PGA Junior League which, as we saw with the USGA-Fox deal now just doing 8 of 13 USGA events with no front or back end coverage, fizzled out as the cost and rating realities led to altered intentions.

There are the usual vapid statements about better opportunities to grow the game, etc. The USGA and Fox promised unprecedented opportunities to raise the USGA’s profile for the betterment of the game. The USGA has never been more anonymous or underserved.

And then there is the PGA price tag: a rise from around $22 million annually for the PGA Championship to $70 million according to multiple sources who I spoke to after the deal was announced. Furthermore, CBS has insisted that ESPN pay a higher share of the rights fee, an amazing thing given that CBS gets the prime weekend coverage. So let’s use basic logic and assume ESPN is paying $40 million or so annually to CBS’s $30 million.

So far, not a word has been uttered about how the extra cash in the coffers will benefit the PGA of America membership, nor was there any mention of reducing the horrible commercial and promo overload that has made the PGA Championship golf’s least appealing major on television.

Also intriguing to see will be how deep into the night both networks go for the PGA’s two West Coast playings during the 11 years. Will 60 Minutes have to wait on golf? Will NBA playoffs move to ESPN2?

John Ourand and John Lombardo report for Sports Business Daily on the deal’s known details and players, with the emphasis on ESPN+ and the PGA Championship as a key part of building the budding streaming service.

But ESPN also is looking for content to convince people to subscribe to its ESPN+ streaming service. “We’re building a new business in ESPN+. It was ideal for us to have a golf major available for acquisition.” Starting with the ’20 event at Harding Park in S.F., CBS and ESPN will have wall-to-wall coverage (more than 175 hours) during the tournament. CBS will carry weekend afternoon coverage, while ESPN and ESPN+ will carry the Thursday and Friday rounds exclusively. It also will carry weekend rounds before CBS goes on air. Interestingly, while CBS is on air on the weekend, ESPN+ will have live coverage from featured holes and featured groups.

Amazing to think that for 11 years, CBS will yield to ESPN on those digital fronts. Anyway…

There was also this:

ESPN+ also will carry practice rounds before the tournament, press conferences and driving range interviews. ESPN will produce “SportsCenter” from the event. Other aspects of the deal: ESPN will carry the PGA Jr. League Championship starting in Oct. ’20. “That could become a different version of the Little League World Series,” Waugh said.

It could. And probably won’t.

Where this deal could differ from USGA/Fox is in the partnerships: CBS loves golf and has been devoted to covering the game a long time, including the PGA Championship since 1991. The last year saw major technological enhancements to the PGA broadcast. Finally.

ESPN, while clearly stockpiling content ala Fox and FS1, has at times shown great interest in golf and as with its involvement in tennis, figures to go all in to make this work. Many of their top Sportscenter anchors love the game and as Mike McQuade and Rob King’s roles at the network increased, golf coverage has expanded.

Still, eleven years is plenty of time to lose interest and to have little incentive to invest, especially if the parent companies deem the deal a loss leader. Even as Fox has settled into their role handling the USGA events and innovated, the network broke away from live US Amateur golf at Pebble Beach this summer to show golf documentary reruns, presumably because a corporate beancounter wasn’t about to cover overtime pay.

So while danger signs exist for similar headaches that annoy viewers, the PGA of America has diversified their partnerships to now include CBS, ESPN, NBC (Ryder Cup, KPMG LPGA, Senior PGA) and Golf Channel (Ryder Cup, KPMG LPGA, Senior PGA). One hopes they negotiated more outs and opportunities to refine broadcast details in response to changing times or changing corporate cultures.

The next priority for the PGA? Figure out how to take their riches and somehow restore the golf professional to a higher place in the game.

Full CBS press release.

Full ESPN press release.

Full PGA of America press release.

More Tiger Impact: Golf Channel Posts Best Third Quarter Ever

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More fruit baskets will be piling up on Tiger’s front door step after this from Golf Channel PR:

MOST-WATCHED, MOST-STREAMED, MOST-ENGAGED THIRD QUARTER EVER

·       Golf Channel posted its most-watched third quarter ever (126,000, P2+) across a 24-hour period, up 9% vs. 2017 (116k).

·       September was Golf Channel’s most-watched September ever (132k), up 33% vs. 2017, and becomes the third month this year to set a most-watched milestone (January and March).

·       Golf Digital’s most-streamed quarter ever with 342 million minutes streamed, up 72% vs. 2017.

·       Golf Digital’s record-setting pace in 2018 includes video starts already setting its most-engaged year ever with 53.4 million starts with the full fourth quarter still remaining.

“Golf’s third quarter benefitted from NBCUniversal’s expertise in promoting, producing and partnering with some of golf’s biggest events and the return of the sport’s biggest star. Golf Channel is now on record pace for its best year ever,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports. “This momentum continues as we chronicle Tiger Woods’ comeback in a unique situation where he’s competing against a generation of athletes he inspired, across an improved 2019 schedule featuring marquee events from March through August.”

 

ADDITIONAL YEAR-TO-DATE HIGHLIGHTS IN 2018 INCLUDE:

·       With nearly 3,450 live hours programmed in 2018, Golf Channel has its most live hours ever programmed, up 107% vs. 2010, the year prior to Golf Channel becoming a part of the NBC Sports Group.

·       NBC Sports’ PGA TOUR live coverage has averaged 3.7 million viewers in 2018, up 60% vs. 2017, and making it NBC’s most-watched PGA TOUR season since 2006.

·       Golf Channel’s PGA TOUR live coverage has averaged 523k viewers for the 2017-2018 season, up 29% vs. the 2016-2017 season and Golf Channel’s most-watched PGA TOUR season since the wrap-around season began in fall, 2012.

 

THIRD QUARTER EVENTS DRIVING RECORD VIEWERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT:

·       Ryder Cup: Up vs. 2014:

o   NBC Sports’ live television coverage of the Ryder Cup drew nearly 19.3 million unique viewers, up 8% vs. 2014, the last time Europe hosted the event.

o   Across Golf Channel and NBC, Total Audience Delivery (TAD) was up all three days vs. 2014.

·       PGA TOUR FedExCup Playoffs: Best Ever In Playoff History:

o   NBC Sports’ live television coverage of all four FedExCup Playoff events was most-viewed since 2007, drawing 32.6 million unique viewers, up 44% vs. 2017.

o   The last three weekends’ TAD Delivery of 3.33 million average viewers on NBC, up 55% vs. 2017, and early round coverage at all four events TAD was 863k average viewers on Golf Channel, up 40% vs. 2017.

·       The 147TH Open: Largest Total Audience in Five Years:

o   NBC Sports’ live television coverage drew 26 million unique viewers, most for The Open since 2013, and up 19% vs. 2017.

o   Across all four days, digital streaming garnered 125 million minutes, up 24% vs. 2017, and making The 147th Open the most-streamed golf event ever for NBC Sports.

o   Viewership across The R&A’s three major championships, The Open, Senior Open and Women’s British Open, was the most-watched since 2009 (TNT/ABC), and up 24%, vs. 2017

5.1: Tiger Delivers 206% Increase In Tour Championship Final Round Rating

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Big numbers!

For Immediate Release:

TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL ROUND BECOMES HIGHEST-RATED FEDEXCUP

PLAYOFFS TELECAST EVER AS TIGER WOODS WINS FOR FIRST TIME IN FIVE YEARS

5.21 Overnight Rating Becomes Highest-Rated PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018 

18.4 Million Minutes Streamed on Sunday (+561% YoY); Most-Streamed

NBC Sports Sunday Golf Round Ever (Excluding Majors) 

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 24, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:15 p.m. ET) earned a 5.21 Overnight rating, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast is up 206% vs. 2017 (1.70).  It also becomes the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-’18) and the highest-rated PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excluding majors). Coverage peaked from 5:30-6p (7.19) as Woods finished his round and as Justin Rose was being crowned the FedExCup champion, only trailing the peaks for The Masters (11.03) and PGA Championship (8.28) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:15 p.m. ET) posted at 4.35 Overnight rating, which is the highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (2000-’18)

“Tiger Woods’ win at the TOUR Championship was an unforgettable event in golf,” said Mike McCarley, President, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “The massive gallery following Tiger up the 18th fairway was matched by record viewership across NBC Sports’ platforms. Golf is experiencing a surge in momentum with Tiger and the young stars of the Tiger-inspired generation atop leaderboards. We look forward to this momentum continuing this week at the Ryder Cup.”

Sunday’s Final Round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes the most-streamed NBC Sports’ Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (Noon-1:30p) also earned a .74 Overnight rating to become the highest Sunday lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-’18).

Golf Players Poll: Brandel Up, Trump Down, Tour Setups About Right, A Third Concerned About Distance

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The old SI and now all-Golf Magazine/Golf.com players poll is great fun as always, with bad news for President Donald Trump, good news for Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee and a host of other fun topics covered.

But since this blog leans toward course setup, architecture, history and distance debates, the obvious questions of note for yours truly:

ARE YOU CONCERNED THAT TOUR PLAYERS ARE HITTING THE BALL TOO FAR?

YES: 32%
NO: 76%

“I just wish I hit it farther.”
“Equipment has taken a ton of skill away from the game.”
“The problem is that the ball goes too straight.”
“Yes — 300 yards doesn’t cut it anymore.”

32% is a steady number given that 100% believe they are paid to say all distance, some manufacturers are actively pressuring players to preach distance and the PGA Tour and PGA of America leadership believes more distance will grow the game.

Three years ago, the number was at 29%, so the slight increase is amazing given the pressures exerted on players to brag about that athleticism and declare the joys of modern technology advances.

As for bifurcation:

SHOULD THERE BE TWO SETS OF EQUIPMENT REGS: ONE FOR PROS, ANOTHER FOR EVERYONE ELSE?

YES: 39%
NO: 61%

“It would ruin the golf industry.”

Amazing to think the golf industry is seen as dependent on what the players play, not on how much people are enjoying the sport or buying equipment based on need or design intrigue or something other than pro golfers.

This one is a huge win for the PGA Tour Rules referees. Huge!

TOUR SETUPS ARE GENERALLY…

…TOO SHORT: 0%
…TOO LONG: 7%
…ABOUT RIGHT: 93%

“Tour setups are typically, well, too lame.”
“Fact: No one bitches when they’re leading the tournament.”

That 44% thought Phil should have been DQ’d does not suggest much admiration from the PGA Tour set for the USGA rules committee.

SHOULD PHIL HAVE BEEN DQ’D AT SHINNECOCK?

YES: 44%
NO: 54%
NO COMMENT: 2%

“He acted like an idiot. If it were me, I’d be out.”
“He should’ve been praised.”

NBC To Broadcast Augusta National Women's Amateur, Logo And Ticket Applications Unveiled

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Augusta National has announced the broadcast partner—NBC Sports—and other details for the first-ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur, including its very own acronym!

There is a lot to consider in this announcement and surprise choice to have NBC broadcast, but for now…

AUGUSTA NATIONAL WOMEN’S AMATEUR NAMES NBC SPORTS AS BROADCAST PARTNER 

Five Presenting Partners Join Augusta National in Support of Women’s Golf; Ticket Applications Now Available 

AUGUSTA, Ga. – In less than seven months, golf’s best women amateurs will compete in the Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA). Today, it was announced that NBC Sports will produce and broadcast three hours of live final-round coverage of the event, which is being supported by five presenting partners: AT&T, Bank of America, IBM, Mercedes-Benz and Rolex. In addition, ticket applications are now available for those interested in attending any of the championship via www.ANWAgolf.com. 

“Since the announcement of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in April, we have remained determined to organize a competition that will provide a meaningful impact on the development of the women’s game,” said Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament. “While we aim to stage a first-class championship, our motivation goes beyond the scores posted between the ropes. By providing this opportunity and shining a brighter light on this important segment of the sport, we expect role models to emerge who will help inspire a new generation of golfers.” 

Gathering the week before the Masters Tournament next April, the international field of 72 players will compete over 54 holes of stroke play, with a cut taking place after 36 holes. The first two rounds will take place on the Island and Bluff nines at Champions Retreat Golf Club Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4. The entire field will then play Augusta National for an official practice round Friday, April 5. The final round will take place at Augusta National on Saturday, April 6 and will feature the top 30 competitors who made the cut. 

NBC Sports will provide pre-event promotion across NBCUniversal’s portfolio and live coverage of the ANWA across its television and digital platforms, including live final-round coverage on NBC at Augusta National from Noon – 3 pm EST. Golf Channel will deliver highlights, live reports and news coverage throughout the event, including onsite during the first two competitive rounds at Champions Retreat. Additionally, Golf Channel’s “Live From the Masters” will commence on Friday, April 5 from Augusta National and wrap ANWA coverage on Saturday, April 6 and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals on Sunday, April 7. 

Golf fans wishing to attend any of next year’s competition rounds can now request a ticket application via www.ANWAgolf.com, the event’s official website. Tickets will be sold in advance, but only after receipt of an online application. Applications will be accepted through September 30. All applicants will be notified in late October when the selection process is complete. 

Based on the qualifications for the ANWA published in April, the following players are currently eligible for invitation: 

♦ Kristen Gillman (USA), U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion 

♦ Leonie Harm (Germany), Ladies’ British Open Amateur Champion 

♦ Atthaya Thitikul (Thailand), Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Champion 

♦ Yealimi Noh (USA), U.S. Girls’ Junior Champion and Girls Junior PGA Champion 

♦ Emma Spitz (Austria), Girls’ British Open Amateur Champion 

The following criteria will fill the next 60 positions in the field, based on the World Amateur Golf Ranking at the end of the 2018 calendar year: 

♦ The top 30 players from the United States of America not otherwise qualified 

♦ The next 30 highest ranked players not otherwise qualified 

The field’s remaining spots will be filled by special invitation from the ANWA Championship Committee. 

Golden State National: Is This A Bad Time To Mention That We Need More Golf Tournaments In California?

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Let's establish three very simple facts:

--Rain rarely occurs in California from May through October.

--When a golf tournament is played in California, it finishes in prime time for more than half the country and garners a much bigger rating, no matter who is contending

--Golf is played outdoors. It is much better when rain does not interfere with the proceedings.

Ok, technically I've presented four simple facts.

As we were reminded again last week after what has actually been a good-weather season in golf, the sport features many overpaid individuals who continue to sign up their major events on the east coast at times of year when rain can (will) be an issue. The PGA Tour set its playoffs for midwest and northeast venues, with a finish in Atlanta at a boring culmination architecturally that will be even less glamorous in 2019.

(In his defense, Commissioner Moonbeam was said to have been trying for at least one major west coast market in his original playoff plans, but players complained about travel issues and the PGA Tour could not find a sponsor/venue fit out west.)

As you know, ratings have never been very good for the FedExCup Playoffs. The list of reasons is long, from a confusing and unsatisfying format, to the time of year and the time zone of the venues, to overall golf fatigue once the majors have been played. The numbers may not improve next year when the playoffs are contested by late August, soon after the major season has ended and at more eastern venues. 

Meanwhile, the PGA Championship moves to May 2019 and while this meant the PGA of America could open up new regions like Florida or Arizona, they've got mostly a who's-who of venues similar to those they've always gone to--Kiawah, Valhalla, Quail Hollow, Baltusrol, Southern Hills, etc...), with just two California stops scheduled through 2030--Harding Park in 2020 and Olympic Club in 2028. Weather could be an issue for most of the future PGA venues, particularly the New York area stops at Bethpage, Trump Bedminster and Oak Hill. 

So if you like the permutations of weather-delayed event planning, then check out Nick Menta's GolfChannel.com story on the many possibilities for the 2018 BMW Championship as play spills into Monday.

But if you are a dreamer, consider Golden State National. 

It's an as-yet unbuilt (or not-yet-remodeled) facility somewhere south of San Francisco and featuring 36-holes of golf, enough hotel rooms within 45 minutes to support the traveling golf circus, a luxury hotel on property for not-important VIP's, a G5-friendly landing strip, and of course, at least 8,500 yards of golf to deal with the distance explosion.

More vitally, Golden State National can host major events from March to November, deliver ratings and finish on Sundays. The ground will be firm. Fans will enjoy themselves. Television executives won't have digestive issues.

But here's the catch: to build or remodel an existing facility into GSN, it costs money. A lot of money when you have to build a course for the modern game where 250 acres is the new 150, meaning we need 500 acres potentially.

The non-profits of golf, devoted to funneling every penny possible to charity--ok, that's slightly sarcastic--have resisted even considering such a facility due to a lack of vision or a lack of funds, even though GSN could also host some NCAA Championships, LPGA majors and other special events. And hackers the rest of the year eager to pay $250 to play where the pros play. 

It'll probably take about $150 million to pull off the facility from scratch, maybe less if we can find a lesser property where dynamite and architectural ingenuity will be the greatest expenses and a local airport handles the Wheels Up crowd. I can think of two San Diego area properties that fit such a bill, and that's just off the top of my head. 

So how do we go about raising the funds for Golden State National since golf's Five Families resist the desire, vision or courage of convictions to do what is right? Which is, to create a facility dedicated to the modern game, modern weather, and modern sports audience? 

Kickstarter anyone?

What To Make Of The Mixed PGA Tour Playoff Ratings News?

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Maybe the numbers do not matter with the PGA Tour Playoffs(C) moving to a late-August finish in 2019. Or perhaps a couple of golf-loving Nielsen viewers took the family to the Catskills Northern Trust Open weekend. 

Either way, with Tiger Woods lingering around and getting lots of coverage, the Northern Trust saw a drop in ratings while Labor Day's final Dell Technologies saw a nice boost from Woods. 

From Paulsen at Sports Media Watch:

Final round coverage of the PGA Tour Northern Trust, the first event of the PGA Tour playoffs, earned a 1.9 rating and 2.75 million viewers on CBS Sunday — down 10% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year (2.1, 3.14M) but up a tick and 5% respectively from 2016 (1.8, 2.63M).

The news was better for Monday's final round at the TPC Boston, where a 2.1 rating was up 8% from 2017 on Tiger's back. The Monday coverage also faced little competition, again making it an attractive coverage day for some other tour to jump on now that the PGA Tour is abandoning Labor Day Monday's going forward. 

Paulsen also updates his Woods Effect numbers from the season with the Northern Trust being just the second tournament to not see an increase. Lead-in numbers are included for Golf Channel and those are also huge, with the 1.34 million average audience for Sunday's coverage. 

Johnny: 50 Years On The Road May Be Enough

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Sounds like Johnny Miller is about ready to hang up his IFB even though he's still the one-and-only-Johnny.

From Doug Ferguson's AP notes column:

“It’s been 50 years on the road, and part of me is saying, ’That’s enough,’” Miller said Tuesday to promote the Safeway Open in Napa, California. “I haven’t gotten to that point yet. They’re still trying to convince me to keep going. So we’ll see. I usually listen to my gut, so to speak, and my wife. Right now, I am planning on scaling down even more. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I will say, ‘Hey, one more year.’”

AT&T Betting Big On Golf Beyond "The Match" Or Just Making Their Best Possible Synergy Play?

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Lost in the details and griping over pay-per-view of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson the day after Thanksgiving may be the role of the main backer: AT&T.

From Mike Murphy's MarketWatch.com item:

AT&T said it will distribute live pay-per-view coverage on a number of its platforms, including DirecTV, AT&T U-verse and sports streaming site B/R Live. The company said the match will also be available on other on-demand platforms, and a rebroadcast will air on the TNT network. The pay-per-view price was not announced.

In a statement, AT&T said the two will be able to make side challenges: “Woods and Mickelson will selectively make side-challenges against one another during the match. For instance, Woods or Mickelson could raise the stakes by challenging the other to a long-drive, closest-to-the-pin or similar competition during a hole as they play their match, with money being donated to the winning golfer’s charity of choice.”

While long focused on sponsoring tournaments and providing bonus coverage on its more recent acquisition, DirecTV, this is the first major play by AT&T on the golf content side. With CEO Randall Stephenson on the PGA Tour Policy Board, could their role in the match and use of TNT as the broadcasting brand to deliver the coverage--despite consistently loathsome reviews of their PGA Championship effort--give folks the impression AT&T is getting in the golf business. 

Or, is this all a way to justify their recent mergers by bringing together too many AT&T properties under the AT&T umbrella: DirecTV, TNT, Bleacher Report, HBO and AT&T U-Verse?

Time will tell, but a big PGA Championship bid does not seem too far fetched. Certainly bidding on some PGA Tour events for 2022 and beyond seems plausible. One question remains and probably always will go unanswered: what does Stephenson do when these matters come up before the PGA Tour Policy Board? 

 

 

 

Wyndham Ratings Up A Bit, U.S. Amateur Flat For Final Match

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While it's more fun to look at Tiger Woods-infused ratings, SBD's Josh Carpenter reported on the 2018 Wyndham Championship on CBS and U.S. Amateur ratings on Fox.

Neither was particularly staggering, but neither was a negative story either. 

The Wyndham's 1.9 for Brandt Snedeker's win was up from a 1.6 in 2017 and the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach drew a .4, the same as last year's thrilling finale between Doug Ghim and Doc Redman.

PGA Overnight: 6.1, Up 56% And Peaks At 8.3! PGA Second Highest Rated Major Of 2018

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Tiger Woods should have another gift basket waiting on his doorstep today, this time from Sean McManus to go with the ones from Mark Lazarus, Mike McCarley and Fred Ridley. Okay, maybe The Masters doesn't do gift baskets. 

Anyway, Tiger helped deliver a 6.1 overnight final round rating for the 2018 PGA Championship. The audience peaked at 8.3 late in the round. 

From Paulsen at Sports Media Watch, who has several other anecdotes about the ratings this year:

Sunday’s final round of the PGA Championship earned a 6.1 overnight rating on CBS, up 69% from last year (3.6), up 56% from 2016 (3.9) and the highest since 2009 (7.5). The previous mark was a 6.0 for the 2014 final round.

The 6.1 is tied as the highest golf overnight outside of the Masters since the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open (6.6).

Some might point out that the 6.1 much better than 2014's 6.0 at Valhalla featuring the unforgettable Rory-Rickie-Phil finish.  However, sports ratings have been on a decline and sizable numbers have moved to streaming, making the rating that much more impressive for CBS.

Also worth noting: the strong final round means the U.S. Open was the lowest rated final round of the four majors this year. The overnights for 2018:

Masters: 7.9
U.S. Open: 3.6
The Open: 5.0
PGA: 6.1

PGA Championship Television Woes, TNT And UK Streaming Edition

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2018 brings with it the same PGA Championship broadcast window woes of the past. 

While CBS has upped their technology game this year, the ironclad PGA contract with CBS and TNT has not been touched since 2009. Today's low early scoring and even a brief 59 watch only adds to the equation.

As John Strege wrote yesterday for GolfDigest.com when none of Rickie Fowler's opening 65 could be seen, TNT was airing episodes of Charmed and Supernatural. And there was this:

In the nearly 30 years that Turner Sports has been telecasting the first two rounds of the PGA Championship, it has always employed the same six-hour window. (Incidentally, its current broadcast rights contract with the PGA of America, negotiated in 2009, runs through 2019.)

One more year and then the PGA of America can give us something else almost assuredly better for the opening rounds and lead-in coverage. 

But if American fans think they have it bad, check out James Gray's Express story on the inauspicious start for the IMG-negotiated, streaming-only PGA broadcast in the UK by the upstart Eleven Sports.

However, the broadcaster announced its more ambitious intentions for 2018 when it secured deals to show La Liga, Serie A, the Eredivise and the Chinese Super League in the UK - as well as the PGA Championship.

Coverage of golf’s fourth major came in for criticism last year after BBC picked up where Sky Sports had dropped it, only to produce a half-hearted effort at producing a replacement.

2018 Women's British Open Ratings: Peaks At 1.18 Million Viewers

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Great to see so many people enjoying the final 2018 links season tournament despite no Americans in contention and two little-known leaders in Georgia Hall and Pornanong Phatlum.

For Immediate Release:

NBC SPORTS’ WEEKEND COVERAGE OF THE RICOH WOMEN’S BRITISH OPEN
BECOME THE MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS ON ANY NETWORK IN 2018

Sunday’s Final Round: Most-Watched Final Round Women’s Golf Telecast in ‘18; 2nd Most-Watched Ricoh Women’s British Open Final Round Since 2009

Saturday’s Third Round: Most-Watched Saturday Women’s Golf Telecast in ’18; 2nd Most-Watched Third Round at This Event in 10 Years 

2.2 Million Live Minutes Streamed; Most-Streamed Women’s Golf Event Ever Across NBC Sports

NBC Sports’ Combined Coverage of the Three R&A Events – The Open, Senior Open and Ricoh Women’s British Open – Most-Watched Since 2009 

ORLANDO, Fla., (Aug. 10, 2018) – Sunday’s final round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open on NBC delivered 964,000 average viewers (11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. ET; P2+), which saw Georgia Hall become the first Englishwoman since Karen Stupples in 2004 to win the Ricoh Women’s British Open with a two-shot victory over Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum. This makes The 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open final round the most-watched women’s golf telecast on any network in 2018 and most-watched final-round telecast since last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open final round, also on NBC (1.1 million average viewers). Sunday’s final round also becomes the 2nd most-watched final round at this event since 2009 on ABC.

Saturday’s viewership on NBC also becomes the most-watched women’s golf Saturday telecast on any network in 2018 with 740,000 average viewers. Saturday’s coverage also becomes the 2nd most-watched third round at this event in 10 years, since 2008 on ABC.

NBC Sports’ combined weekend coverage (.63 U.S. Household Rating, 842,000 average viewers) becomes the 2nd most-watched weekend at this event in nine years, since 2009 on ABC and behind only last year’s coverage on NBC.

ADDITIONAL NBC SPORTS VIEWERSHIP AND DIGITAL HIGHLIGHTS:

  • NBC Sports’ final round linear coverage peaked at a .85 U.S. Household Rating, and 1.18 million average viewers (1:45-2 p.m. ET).

  • Digital: Across four days of coverage, 2.2 million total minutes were streamed (+10% vs. 2017); making 2018 the most-streamed women’s golf event ever across NBC Sports’ platforms.

Brandel On His Competitive Return At The Old Course

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Brandel Chamblee qualified for the Senior Open at Carnoustie after years on the sidelines and the Golf Channel analyst writes about the experience.

This was fun and my dictionary did get cracked to look up obdurate:

My ball striking started to improve, such that after a few sessions with Lucas, I could hit scores and scores of shots that, passing through the right window in the sky, wouldn’t move but the few feet I wanted them to fade. Confidence can leave one like a thunderbolt, but it comes back incrementally. So there I was, a humorous blend of contradictions when asked how I thought I would do – somewhere between 64 and 78, I’d think. The analyst in me said, no chance. The player in me had left a long time ago. The truth was, I didn’t know. 

Besides being asked how I felt I would do, the question I got more often was if I realized how much fuel my poor play might give those looking to criticize me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t give it some thought, but the thought of competing again means one has to risk embarrassment with an obdurate mix of ignorance and certainty. 

CBS Adding Great Goodies For PGA Championship Broadcast: 4DReplay, Mic's In Cups, More Drone Flyovers

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With all due respect to the tech people who work behind the scenes on these innovations free of politics or business, but it's especially fun to see CBS adding some cutting edge enhancements to their PGA Championship. Not coincidentally the news arrives after a combination of factors, from some Fox and NBC/Golf Channel influence, to the best incentive of all: a 2019 expiring contract! (Note to golf organizations: shorter contracts incentivize innovation!). 

The full release is below, but the 4DReplay add, at least based on what we've seen of its use in other sports, could be as groundbreaking as tracer technology. (See sample embeds below).

And we always welcome more cup sound and drone flyovers!

For Immediate Release:

CBS SPORTS TECHNICAL ENHANCEMENTS AND INNOVATIONS EXPAND

FOR 2018 COVERAGE INCLUDING FIRST EVER 4D REPLAY ON U.S. GOLF

HAWK-EYE GREEN TECHNOLGY, ROVER CAM, TOPTRACER TECHNOLOGY AND MORE BRING VIEWERS INSIDE-THE-ROPES LIKE NEVER BEFORE

For the 28th consecutive year and 35th overall, CBS Sports will broadcast the PGA Championship contested at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, MO with cutting-edge technical enhancements and innovations that bring viewers inside-the-ropes like never before.  CBS Sports will present the third and final rounds on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11-12 (2:00-7:00 PM, ET).   Coverage begins on CBS Sports Network with “PGA Championship on the Range” and “PGA Championship Clubhouse Report” Thursday, Aug. 9- Sunday, Aug. 12.

CBS Sports production will once again lead the way with cutting-edge technical enhancements and innovations, including being the first U.S. broadcaster to use 4D Replay on a golf broadcast.  CBS will use the ground-breaking 4D Replay showcasing the challenging 495-yard Par 4 15th hole through a camera covering 270 degrees of the tee box that allows for 3D manipulation of the video giving announcers and viewers an all-new look at a golfer’s swing.    

With 110 cameras and 175 microphones covering 41 miles of multi-strand fiber, equaling 492 miles of actual fiber connectivity, viewers will not miss any action on the grounds at Bellerive.  

In addition, for the first time at a PGA, CBS will utilize Hawk-Eye Green Technology, giving viewers a unique perspective on the putting line as well as the undulations of the green, as well as Rover Cam for a ride across Bellerive.  Along with the enhancement of Toptracer, Toptracer RF and ARL, Virtual Eye, 4K HDR, Smartcart, SwingVision, Aerial Drone Coverage, Cup Mics and all new on-air Graphics look celebrating the 100thPGA Championship, CBS will showcase this unrivaled technology to complement the broadcast as another chapter in PGA history unfolds.    

Production and Technology elements in detail:  

·       4D Replay – CBS Sports will be the first U.S. broadcaster to use 4D Replay on golf at the PGA Championship.  A camera array covering 270 degrees of the 15th tee box will allow for 3D manipulation of the video.  The video not only can pan anywhere within the 270 degrees of coverage, but can also be zoomed in and slowed down in playback to get a unique look at the tee shots from the best players in the world attacking the challenging Par 4 .

·       Toptracer – CBS will use Toptracer broadcast technology on all 18 holes, using 3D radar tracking to provide the viewer with a true sense of distance, height, curvature and more. Tracing live tee shots on various holes showing the apex, ball speed, distance and curve will once again be staples of this technology.   Toptracer will also showcase new Range Technology during coverage of “PGA Championship On the Range,” both Thursday and Friday on CBS Sports Network.

o   ARL Virtual Eye - Virtual Eye technology returns this year with increased coverage of more holes. Virtual Eye uses Toptracer ball tracing capabilities on tee shots within a 3D Hole model while simultaneously showing the golfer hit shots from the tee.  And, for the first time at the PGA Championship, it also will be used from the fairway on the 17th hole. Virtual flyover animations also return, giving a second shot perspective once the ball comes to rest including GolfTrax information providing key statistical information for both individual players and holes.  Virtual Eye will be used both live and in playback.

o   Toptracer RF - Toptracer will outfit two RF mini cameras in order to provide ball tracking graphics and statistics on a player’s second shot from the fairway anywhere on the course at Bellerive Country Club. 

·       Hawk-Eye Green Technology    

o   Putt Predictor - The Putt Predictor demonstrates the extreme differences in the line that a putt can travel and still go in based on weight of the ball strike.  It provides a shaded area between the line of a hard putt to the back of the hole and a soft putt line that has the most movement.  If a putt leaves the shaded area between the two lines the viewer knows that it will not drop.  

o   Undulation Grid - A graphical grid overlaid on a green along with moving arrows to highlight the undulations of a green.

·       Rover Cam -  For the first time, CBS Sports will use a remote controlled rover with an RF camera affixed to it to provide a unique perspective to the coverage travelling across the grounds at Bellerive Country Club.

·       4K HDR –  Bellerive Country Club’s closing holes 16, 17, and 18 will be captured in 4K beginning Thursday and concluding with the final round.  For the fourth time in 2018, CBS will produce live 4K golf coverage, which includes using 15 4K HDR cameras at the PGA Championship to air on DIRECTV. New to the Championship this year is the addition of HDR to the home viewers of the 4K show. HDR, with a wider color gamut, provides richer and more vibrant colors along with deeper contrast between light and dark for a more realistic image.

·       Smartcart – Introduced two years ago for the first time at a PGA Championship, Smartcart returns.  The 72-inch mobile screen, attached to a custom-fitted golf cart for broadcast applications, will be used to analyze and telestrate a myriad of data including golf swings and shots, difficulty of holes, and scorecards bringing a new dimension to golf coverage with compelling content from action on the course.  CBS Sports Network also will use Smartcart for Thursday and Friday’s “PGA Championship On the Range.” 

·       SwingVision – CBS returns its Emmy Award-winning technical innovation, SwingVision, featuring super-slow action to break down players’ swings and demonstrate shots from various parts of the course.

·       Aerial Drone Coverage –  CBS Sports’ aerial drone coverage captured all the elevations, undulations and hazards of Bellerive Country Club.  Drones allow for a much more dynamic look at each hole for the viewers from the “player’s perspective.” 

·       Cup Mics -  Microphones will be placed in specified cups to capture audio from balls going into the hole as well as hitting the pin or even landing on the green near the cup.  

·       New Graphics -  Celebrating the 100th PGA Championship, the graphics package embraces the spirit of the PGA using the navy and gold color scheme of the PGA of America. The amination package evokes the essence of this tournament through graceful movement and high-end 3D design.  

This, in golf could be so powerful, from capturing a golf swing to an incredible moment. It would particularly fun on a drivable par-4 tee and some day, an 18th green complex.

And a how-we-do-it piece:

PGA Tour Live Moving To NBC Sports Gold In 2019

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After testing out PGA Tour Live with ESPN's new streaming service, the pre-Golf Channel telecasts will move to NBC Sports Gold in 2019 and feature more viewer-friendly synergy between Golf Channel and PGA Tour Live telecasts.  Obviously, as a Golf Channel contributor, I'm thrilled to see the move as it strengthens the Tour-GC relationship, but as a fan, the sense of a competitive vibe where the PGA Tour was not in lockstep with its cable partner did little to serve fans. 

Of course, I say all of this as a cable TV lover who will not cut the cord anytime soon, so I'm not the demo sought after here.

Judging by the "passes" offered at NBC Sports Gold, expect a golf pass that becomes a future option for cord cutters. 

In the meantime, For Immediate Release...

PGA TOUR & NBC SPORTS GROUP ANNOUNCE STRATEGIC OTT PARTNERSHIP

PGA TOUR LIVE’s Thursday & Friday Morning Coverage to be Distributed as Standalone Subscription Offering within NBC Sports Gold in 2019

PGA TOUR LIVE Joins Premier League, Tour de France, Rugby World Cup & Boston Marathon within NBC Sports Gold Offerings

Available on Desktop, Android and iOS Devices, Apple TV; and New for PGA TOUR LIVE via Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and Roku

ORLANDO & PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – (July 31, 2018) – Today the PGA TOUR and NBC Sports Group announced a new, innovative, multi-year digital partnership. Starting in 2019, NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports Digital’s direct-to-consumer live streaming product, will be the United States’ home of PGA TOUR LIVE, the PGA TOUR’s over-the-top subscription video service. The partnership includes rights to all of PGA TOUR LIVE’s Thursday and Friday morning coverage from 28 events, starting with the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, featuring THE PLAYERS in March, and running through the FedExCup Playoffs in August.

Since launching in 2015, PGA TOUR LIVE has brought fans exclusive coverage of the best players in the world on Thursday and Friday mornings – the first time that complete, live coverage of morning marquee groups was offered. The platform also features real-time video highlights, complete round replays and tournament recap programming.

NBC Sports Gold is an industry leader in direct-to-consumer live streaming with a robust portfolio of properties. Launched in 2016, NBC Sports Gold’s offerings complement NBC Sports’ broadcast and cable distribution. In addition to PGA TOUR LIVE, NBC Sports Gold includes packages for fans of the Tour de France, Premier League, Rugby World Cup, Boston Marathon, Pro Motocross and also coming in 2019, IndyCar, among others. As part of NBC Sports Gold, PGA TOUR LIVE will be available on desktop, Android and iOS Devices, Apple TV; and will expand to Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and Roku next year. NBC Sports Gold is powered by Playmaker Media, NBC Sports Digital’s best-in-class live streaming and VOD solution, which in 2018 delivered 4.37 billion live streaming minutes for the three biggest digital events: Super Bowl LII, Winter Olympics, and FIFA World Cup.

“Since we launched PGA TOUR LIVE in late 2015, the fan feedback has been tremendous,” said Rick Anderson, Chief Media Officer of the PGA TOUR. “In 2018, virtually every key metric is up triple digits versus last year and the coverage gets better and better every week. Moving PGA TOUR LIVE over to NBC Sports Gold represents the next evolution of our product. Not only will Golf Channel and NBC Sports be promoting PGA TOUR LIVE to its massive audience of millions of television and digital viewers, but also, PGA TOUR LIVE will now be available on several new connected TV devices due to NBC Sports’ expanded platform distribution. In 2019, our live coverage will be significantly better, and more accessible, for subscribers of PGA TOUR LIVE.”

“We’ve worked together with the PGA TOUR on many projects across many platforms and we’re looking forward to taking the next step with PGA TOUR LIVE on NBC Sports Gold,” said Mike McCarley, President, Golf, NBC Sports. “Building upon years of partnership, NBC Sports Group and the PGA TOUR are raising the profile of PGA TOUR LIVE as a complement to the hundreds of live hours of PGA TOUR tournament coverage across Golf Channel and NBC Sports. As we help build PGA TOUR LIVE, we’re fortunate to be able to apply lessons learned from years of digital innovation in covering some of the biggest events in sports via NBC Sports’ best-in-class streaming capabilities.”

In 2019, PGA TOUR LIVE plans to stream more than 360 hours of exclusive subscription coverage, as well as hundreds of hours of free Featured Holes coverage, complementing televised coverage from 28 PGA TOUR events next year. PGA TOUR Entertainment will continue to produce the live coverage. Highlights of the PGA TOUR LIVE subscription package launching on NBC Sports Gold include:

  • Pre-game Show: a 30-minute preview program that leads into the morning’s live competition coverage.

  • Featured Groups: early round coverage on Thursday and Friday prior to Golf Channel’s afternoon television window. Featured Groups coverage follows two concurrent, high-profile groups throughout their 18-hole rounds. To-date in 2018, PGA TOUR LIVE has featured entire rounds (outside traditional televised windows) of Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and dozens more.

  • Featured Holes: live coverage of some of the PGA TOUR’s most iconic holes, concurrent with Golf Channel’s television window (traditionally from 3-6 p.m. ET).

  • Integrated Statistical Feeds: Users never have to leave the action with integrated live leaderboards and player scorecards.

  • Comprehensive Viewership Experience: Streamlines the PGA TOUR viewership experience by providing golf fans a continuous platform for streaming via NBC Sports Gold for PGA TOUR LIVE’s, Golf Channel’s and NBC Sports’ coverage windows.

  • Featured Player Recaps: Users can get caught up on the day’s action with new condensed rounds from each player in the Featured Group coverage.

  • Event Recaps: Watch an event recap in an hour-long cut down show that highlights the best of that weeks’ tournament.

Pricing options for PGA TOUR LIVE in 2019 will be announced in January. Users who sign up via www.pgatourlive.com will be kept aware of the latest news and announcements related to its 2019 launch on NBC Sports Gold. For golf fans outside of the United States, the same comprehensive PGA TOUR LIVE coverage will be available. More information will be announced by the PGA TOUR at a later date.

Rick Anderson of the PGA Tour discussed the move on Morning Drive:

AdAge On What The Open's 18-year Ratings-High Means

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Anthony Crupi of AdAge takes an in-depth look at the Tiger Woods effect on Open Championship ratings and overall in 2018.  The Open final round out-rated the U.S. Open for the first time

Of note is the impact on other tournament numbers enjoying a small bump even when he isn't in the field, suggesting (possibly) that he has had an overall impact on interest in golf. 

Also of note is the boost in ad spending and ad approach in this little renaissance. 

Crupi notes:

Among the markers who spent the most in order to bask in Tiger's reflected glory were Mercedes-Benz, Geico, Rolex, Pacific Life, Travelers, U.S. Bank, Farmers Insurance, Toyota and Volkswagen. According to iSpot.tv estimates, Mercedes racked up some 60.6 million impressions during Sunday's round, which works out to a very reasonable CPM of $25.60.

Callaway also got a fair amount of milage from the Open, as the golf gear brand throughout the four-day tourney was featured several times in NBC's "Playing Through" ad format. Designed to keep viewers plugged into the action on the links while giving the sponsor a chance to shill its wares to a highly-targeted audience of golf enthusiasts, the split-screen execution offered a window on the goings-on in Carnoustie on the left side, while Callaway spokesman Phil Mickelson warned viewers that one of his Chrome Soft balls was about to pass through their living rooms.

Given the amount of complaints I saw on social media, hopefully Playing Through used this way will get more advertisers to endorse the concept for more consistent usage in golf and other sports where there are no natural breaks.