LPGA's Whan Still Yearning To Get His Tour More Broadcast Network Airtime

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Intriguing stance by Commish Mike Whan’s in believing network television is still the place to get more notoriety and purse growth for the LPGA Tour. From Beth Ann Nichols’ Golfweek story posted after Whan discussed the close on a two-year Golf Channel extension and the PGA Tour’s involvement in handling negotiations:

Whan points to current No. 1 Jin Young Ko as a prime example.

“If you gave me 39 weekends a year, I promise you I could make you love Jin Young Ko,” said Whan. “You’re going to get to know her story and swing. You see her five times a year, she’s just a name I can’t pronounce. That’s a shame. If you give me 39 weeks there’s a lot of guys on the PGA Tour I wouldn’t care about.… When they become people you know, you want to watch them.”

However, as the Nichols story points out, the U.S. Women’s Open on Fox was outdrawn by NBC network broadcasts of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Diamond Resorts TOC, with strong Golf Channel and promotional tie-ins on other NBC outlets, suggesting that a mere broadcast network presence isn’t enough.

It’s also hard to see a broadcast network taking on the LPGA Tour at the PGA Tour’s negotiating insistence when even PGA Tour events do not all get broadcast network coverage. Seems obvious who will get priority in negotiations, but stranger things have happened.

LPGA, Golf Channel Near Two-Year Extension, What Does It Mean?

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Randall Mell says the “finishing touches” are in the works for an LPGA Tour television extension with Golf Channel that would extend the current deal.

“We're in the final stages of completing a two-year extension, pretty much as is,” LPGA commissioner Mike Whan told reporters Friday at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

A Golf Channel spokesman confirmed Whan’s announcement.

Whan confirmed that the PGA Tour has led the LPGA’s TV negotiations, as part of a strategic alliance agreement struck between the tours in 2016.

This sets the LPGA up to be part of the PGA Tour’s next television contract negotiations, likely benefiting from the ability to be included as part of the bidding. Though to what extent the PGA Tour will prioritize the LPGA in packaging, scheduling and inclusion in deals remains to be seen. Whichever networks interested in taking on PGA Tour coverage will almost surely have to take on other (less or not profitable) tours as well.

Current PGA Tour contracts with CBS, NBC and Golf Channel expire at the end of 2021. This sets in motion the likelihood of negotiations beginning in earnest with prospective bidders.

Classic Sports TV's Count Of 2019 U.S. Open Shots Shown By Fox

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As he always does, Jeff Haggar at Classic TV Sports tracked all of the shots shown by Fox during the 2019 U.S. Open final round coverage.

He started about 30 minutes before the leaders teed off to maintain some consistency with other major telecasts. Fox showed 1.17 shots per minute, down a touch from the 1.24 shown at Shinnecock Hills. But Fox appeared to do the leaders justice and also show a good number of players contending.

He also tracked holes shown the most. Check it out here.

For comparison to prior majors, see this table with links to all of Haggar’s charts since 2014.

Q&A With Israel DeHerrera On Hogan The Documentary

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Debuting Monday and Tuesday June 17-19 at 9 pm ET, Golf Films looks at the life and legend of Ben Hogan.

With limited commercial interruption thanks to sponsor Charles SchwabHogan is narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor Kyle Chandler, and produced for 13-time Emmy Award winner Israel DeHerrera. He answered some questions about how the film came together.

GS: Let’s talk genesis of this film. How long has this been in the works and what was the goal in tackling such a complicated figure?

ID: Was sitting around wondering what was going to be next and was nosing around on YouTube and found an interview Hogan did with Ken Venturi at the 1983 Colonial. It was only about 12 minutes long, but I was immediately transfixed. He spoke in a staccato tone that had me hanging on every word. So I dug deeper and read Curt Sampson's biography. I read it cover to cover in two days and knew that we really needed to try and bring this story into a visual documentary form.

The film has been two years in the making but that coincides with the release of two other films that debuted last year and five others that are currently in production.

GS: When did your fascination with Hogan begin?

ID: When I saw the Commercials for Hogan apex irons in the early 1990's. Seeing Hogan in that yellow sweater at Riviera taking full swings was just mystical.

Q: What is your best interview get and person you most wished you could have interviewed and did not?

ID: Best interview was Curt Sampson. He was our Shelby Foote. We also sat down with Ben's niece Jacque Hogan. It was pretty cool to get a first person account of the accident and the recovery as well as the Hogan family history

Person I wished I could of interviewed is pretty easy…Hogan!

Q: Craziest place or effort made to research Hogan?

ID: We went everywhere: Dublin, Texas, Glen Garden G.C, Shady Oaks, Colonial, Riviera
Carnoustie Scotland, Merion GC, Cherry Hills, et cetera.

But finding the Hogan collectors was HUGE. John Seidenstein of Fort Worth and Mark Baron of San Diego are Hogan freaks. They both have massive collections and exhibits in their homes dedicated to Hogan. We are always looking to add additional layers and give these films a present day feel and this really helped

Q: There are reenactments in the film. Tell us what goes into the thinking on those and is there consternation given in using them given how strong the visuals and storytelling is with a subject like Hogan?

ID: This was a difficult decision. There simply was not enough footage of Hogan's career to be able to tell the story we wanted to tell so we decided to do re-enactments. We found Christo Garcia who spent five years of his life dedicating himself to copying Hogan's swing. We wanted to be as genuine as possible so we flew him to Shady Oaks for a shoot and to Merion to shoot there on the East Course. That said, I was very conscious of that fact that having someone trying to replicate Hogan’s swing was sacrilegious, so we only tried to use tight shots of hands, legs, shoulders etc. We tried to avoid showing an entire full swing.

Hogan’s childhood was another reason we needed to do re-creations. There are only of handful of photos of Ben during his childhood. I am very happy with how these turned out. We spent many hours casting, blocking, searching for the proper locations, actors, props etc. and I think it shows during the childhood scenes and the famous caddie tournament he played against Byron Nelson at Glen Garden. We also rented out an old house in LA to shoot his re-creations of his recovery from the accident.

GS: : Thing that most surprised you about Hogan in your research?

ID: I have to give credit to Curt Sampson here. He really did all the heavy lifting in terms of research and brought Hogan to life for a generation of fans when he released his biography in the late 1990’s. Our goal was to do the best possible job in bringing him to life in a visual documentary form that will hopefully engage and give birth to a whole new audience.

I was just surprised at how difficult this man’s life really was. I knew a little bit about Hogan but not everything. Charles Dickens and Oliver Twist had it easy compared to this guy. He is just an amazing story of perseverance.

How The FOX Drones Are Getting Such Amazing Views At Pebble Beach

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I chatted with Fox Sports’ director Steve Biem Sunday for this Golfweek story to better understand how the Kaze Aerial team is getting the remarkable drone images from the 2019 U.S. Open, as well as an audible with the new FlightTrack tracer covering the 6th tee shot and now, the 17th.

It was fascinating to hear about the adjustments made to get where they are, which is providing us views like we’ve never seen before.

U.S. Open Viewing Tip Sheet And What To Expect From Pebble Beach

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Your most vital piece of information sits above, with the Fox schedule with ET times. Look at those prime time windows. Have I mentioned that California U.S. Opens are just better? Oh, anyway…

The Forecaddie previews a new twist on Toptracer technology from Fox Sports next week. Sounds like we will need players to go for the 14th green in two if we want to see in all its glory. And the live drone should be great fun getting the seagulls view of the action!

Golf Channel will provide plenty of programming as well, starting with Monday’s World Golf Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony followed by Morning Drive and Live From the U.S. Open coverage all week. You will note in their release my name attached to two features: one on poa annua and another Chandler Egan’s 1929 redesign of the course and whether it needs to be restored. I hope you enjoy the pieces and I’ll do my best to make sure to preview when they will air.

It’s going to be a stellar week from the Monterey Peninsula!

For Immediate Release from Fox Sports:

FOX SPORTS CONTINUES PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY EVOLUTION 
FOR 119TH U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

Tethered Drone, Operates from a Boat off the Northern California Coastline,

To Offer Unique Views of Pebble Beach

LOS ANGELES – FOX Sports continues its industry-leading production technology development, with additions and upgrades in place for its coverage of the 119th U.S. Open Championship from Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, Calif., from Thursday, June 13 to Sunday, June 16 on FOX, FS1, FOX Deportes, FOXSports.com and the FOX Sports App.

"We are planning our most comprehensive and technologically advanced U.S. Open to date, matching the excitement level surrounding the championship being held at iconic Pebble Beach,” said Zac Fields, SVP Graphic Tech & Innovation, FOX Sports. “We’re constantly improving the viewing experience of this great event and the FOX Sports team is excited to offer viewers more dynamic experiences from the golf course than ever before.” 

FOX Sports remains at the forefront of ball-tracing technology in 2019, as the network equips the tee box on all 18 holes with Trackman radar technology. Nine holes are equipped to show viewers a standard ball-trace over live video, with enhanced club and ball data. The remaining nine holes will display Emmy-nominated FOX FlightTrack, a live trace over a graphic representation of the golf hole, offering more perspective to the viewer. All 18 holes will have the ability to insert a real-time live carry distance. 

Three roaming wireless RF tracers will work to provide ball tracing on approach shots. There will also be FlightTrack for fairways shots on two holes, Nos. 6 and 14. New this year will be a mobile tower camera equipped with Toptracer technology, also positioned on No. 14, allowing for more dynamics within the shot. Unlike most tracer shots, where the camera must remain still, this camera will allow FOX Sports to pan, tilt and zoom to see the ball as it comes towards the camera. 

Just a few weeks ago, FOX Sports’ Shane Bacon and Joel Klatt played a round at Pebble Beach and discussed No. 14’s difficult approach and tough green, offering insights on what to expect from the pros at the U.S. Open: https://vimeo.com/340574507

FOX Sports’ image capture continues to evolve at the U.S. Open, with the most 1080p HDR cameras in place for any live event in the U.S. ever, placing over 50 cameras across the course, and in each tower camera and blimp to help capture the stunning beauty of Pebble Beach. 

Alongside this technology is the new penalty area camera system, which houses three cameras for over 210 degrees of capture alongside the out of bounds markers at holes Nos. 4 and 5.

As FOX Sports has done since its USGA debut in 2015, live replay coverage of the event continues to capture every camera across the course simultaneously with 178 record channels and 54 playout channels. 

A Pebble Beach first, FOX Sports will deploy a live tethered-aerial drone camera to be launched and operated from a boat along the coastline at Pebble Beach, giving the viewer unique live action on the course.

In addition to its television broadcast and featured groups and holes streams, this year FOX Sports introduces a new “USGA Practice Tee” channel, which is focused on the driving range and uses Toptracer Range technology for added insight as players warm up. Fans at Pebble Beach will see players’ shots being traced on LED boards at the range, while the broadcast and all streaming channels will be able to go into greater detail on swing technique, ball flight and more. Streaming feeds are available on FOXSports.com, the FOX Sports App, DirecTV and USGA.org.

Continuing to develop elements in augmented reality (AR) that offer viewers greater context, FOX Sports will be using various shots from multiple blimps and cranes to layer graphics on top of video, including, but not limited to, wind direction and speed, player on-course location and course statistics.

In addition to the new “USGA Practice Tee” channel, the “Featured Holes” channel gets an upgrade for 2019. Data from Trackman units on these holes will be displayed on the streaming feeds in real-time. Viewers will see data for live shots along with more advanced statistics throughout the championship.

In preparation for this week’s event, multiple days of aerial production drone flights were completed last week, capturing unique images from each of the 18 holes.

Staff & Support

  • 455 technicians

  • 72 support staff

  • 66,000+ man-hours over 15 days

  • Field Support

    • 51 miles of multi-strand fiber optics (over 1,872 miles of actual fiber connectivity)

    • 912 strands of fiber optics available across the course

    • IP Networking

      • 1,056 1Gbps Ethernet ports distributed across the course

      • 28 managed network locations

      • 94 distinct managed networks

      • 6 Gbps of Internet data managed

      • 78 Gbps of broadcast data managed

  • Cameras

    • 121 Total Cameras

      • 18 – 1080p wireless cameras

        • 6 – 1080p HDR wireless cameras

      • 52 – 1080p HDR cameras

      • 12 – 100x lens-based cameras

      • 19 – 95x lens-based cameras

      • 5 – Xmo High-frame-rate cameras (4,000+ fps)

      • 2 – Sony – 8x – High-frame-rate cameras (480fps)

      • 4 – Cinematic Cameras with FOX Films look

      • 3 – RF Tracer cameras

      • 2 – Mini portable robotic cameras

      • 75’ Strada Camera Crane

  • Audio

    • 12 audio consoles

    • 232 microphones across the course

      • 8 RF announcers

      • 18 hole microphones

      • 20 RF walking microphones 

  • Replay / Post Production

    • 178 Record Channels

    • 54 Playout Channels

    • 768 TB real-time storage

    • 5 Edit Bays

Revised: U.S. Women's Open Final Round Draws Just A .5

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Paulsen at Sports Media Watch waits for the final rating (not the overnight) and it’s an all-time low for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open.

The fall of this event in terms of viewership from the Sorenstam days is shocking:

As recently as three years ago, final round coverage had a comparably healthy 0.9 and 1.31 million. Five years ago, when Michelle Wie won, the final round had a 1.4 and 2.04 million on NBC. Thirteen years ago, when Annika Sörenstam last won, ratings and viewership reached as high as 3.1 and 4.28 million.

Keep in mind that coverage aired directly opposite the final round of the PGA Tour Memorial tournament, which featured Tiger Woods (2.1, 2.96M). While last year’s coverage also faced the Memorial, the PGA Tour event aired primarily on tape delay due to rain.

The final round was no match for the corresponding days of the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur (0.9, 1.36M) or last year’s Women’s British Open (0.7, 964K).

Ratings: 2019 Memorial Scores 1.7 Final Round, U.S. Women's Open's .6 Pushing All Time Low

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Tiger Woods in contention helped bump up the Memorial ratings 33% over last year, with a 1.7 overnight according to Sports Business Daily.

The U.S. Women’s Open’s overnight from CC of Charleston was a .6, up just a tiny bit over a similar .6 last year and continuing a trend of hovering around record lows since the move to Fox. This, despite being commercial free broadcasts.

Chuck May Want To Talk To Chuck After Somber Colonial Kickoff

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All longtime golf fans are grateful to Charles Schwab for rescuing the Colonial, even if it meant wiping the club’s name off the iconic title in favor of the forgettable Charles Schwab Challenge. Then again, had they left Colonial in the title, we’d all still just call it the Colonial. And may still.

But the longtime supporter of golf might be scratching his head a bit after year one of a four year deal even after a perfectly normal PGA Tour event. A fascinating mix of leaders were extinguished by Kevin Na’s closing 66 only to have Na immediately give away quite possibly the most clever winner gift in some time: a restored Dodge Challenger. Mike McAllister reports for PGATour.com.

Granted, Na did pledge before the tournament started to gift the car to Harms, who deserves more than an iconic American sports car for carrying Na’s bag(gage):

But the keys handoff did lead to that gloriously awkward winner’s photo with the car, Harms, Schwab and Na, along with a tournament official in the back left expressing only minor agony.

Adding to the awkwardness of the day: a subdued CBS telecast marked by multiple shots from the clouds (aka blimp), the dreaded bereavement track, and tributes to legends lost like Dan Jenkins, Bart Starr, etc. Still, the general somberness became more apparent when Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo were shown at the 18th before a tribute to “retiring” CBS workers was shown.

The tribute was quite touching, with Nantz refusing to sugarcoat the situation while Faldo’s eyes watered and turned red as they discussed the role of the many talented craftspeople losing their jobs. Excuse me, retiring. In mass. All in the same week.

As they introduced the primary crew members and some of the great moments covered or lengthy tenures, it was obviously a huge blow to the CBS Sports team.

While words like retirement and voluntary were bandied about, we all know what this is about, as telegraphed a couple of months ago:

Cost cutting moves: CBS is looking for about $100 million in cost savings in the next three years from belt-tightening and restructuring in search of greater efficiencies. That process could lead to streamlining of redundant operations and voluntary employee buyouts. “We reorganizing and thinking about functions that go across multiple divisions,” Ianniello said.

If it were any other corporate leader than Schwab—who has seen just about everything in golf—I’m guessing phone calls would be made, inquiries made and questions asked about so many layoffs in the midst of the golf season—with a mid-telecast tribute—and at a time the CBS schedule is at full force.

So Chuck probably won’t have to talk to Chuck. But if he were miffed at how year one played out, no one would blame him.

Hogan Documentary Coming To Golf Channel June 17 And 18

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Producer Israel DeHerrera kindly let me screen parts of Hogan knowing my affinity for all things Ben Hogan and research into the Hawk’s Los Angeles years. All I can say: it’s the film you hoped would be delivered on Hogan’s incredible life and times.

For Immediate Release (with two other sneak previews at this link):

Hogan: Monday-Tuesday, June 17-18, 9 p.m. ET

Hogan (trailer), a two-part biopic on 64-time PGA TOUR winner Ben Hogan chronicles one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history, reflecting on the Texan’s indelible impact on professional golf in spite of a near-fatal automobile accident that put the prime years of his career in serious jeopardy. Coming from humble beginnings, the film examines Hogan’s incredible journey to becoming one of the greatest golfers of all-time, serving as the inspiration for the 1951 motion picture “Follow the Sun”. Being presented with limited commercial interruption by Charles Schwab, Hogan’s two parts – Monday night’s “Perseverance” and Tuesday night’s “Perfection” – will be narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor Kyle Chandler, and be produced for GOLF Films by 13-time Emmy Award winner Israel DeHerrera.

CBS (Sort Of) Avoids Historic Production Disaster During 2019 PGA Final Round

A new contract kicks in next year for the PGA of America with CBS and ESPN. Details are sketchy, and given the PGA’s tendency to prioritize profit over what’s best for their fans or the game, I’m not optimistic that we will see a cutback in promos and ads.

What is also not clear: will there be higher standards demanded by the PGA of America of their broadcast partners beginning next year? It’s always a tricky thing to be telling television professionals how to do their job, but for starters the odd tradition of CBS witholding major production elements from their weekday PGA Championship partner needs to go. We can only hope the PGA would have stipulated this in writing to protect their product when it airs on ESPN.

One thing you can’t legislate: production mistakes. As Andy Nesbit writes at For The Win, fans are livid with the certified disaster that was CBS going to an interview with Dustin Johnson instead of staying with the incredible drama at the 18th hole. That’s where Brooks Koepka was faced with a brutal lie on a bunker edge. A double bogey sends the tournament to a playoff.

An unusually chatty Johnson was gabbing away as Koepka hacked his ball quite impressively back into the fairway. The ball was easily chunkable from such an awkward position.

Nesbitt writes before rounding up the Twitter outrage: “It was just terrible timing and angered fans watching the drama unfold on TV.”

While it’s not comparable to the infamous Heidi debacle, had Koepka flubbed the shot and collapsed, the decision to conduct an interview would been one of the great blunders in television history. Still, the moment will be remembered and analyzed given the need to set up the scenarios facing Koepka, who is notoriously fast. Fans were deprived of watching a huge moment and undoubtedly CBS’s Lance Barrow feels awful about it.

Let’s hope with a new contract and a clean slate at Harding Park, all of the parties get together and beef up the PGA Championship broadcast in the interest of their credibility, the health of the championship and most of all, the desires of fans watching at home.

First PGA In May: 3.9 Overnight For CBS Coverage, Peaks At 5.4 During Conclusion

Brooks Koepka’s 2-stroke victory started as an apparent runaway but got interesting and the numbers suggest viewers turned over as the lead shrunk. CBS’s final round coverage drew a 3.9 rating, down significantly from last August’s 6.1 overnight when Tiger, Koepka and other top names dueled down the stretch.

Last year’s Players Championship, the final in May ( a week prior to the new PGA date) and featuring Woods in contention, drew a 4.1, up from a 2.6.

Austin Karp of SBJ posted some numbers and context.

The (Next) Match: Forget Tiger And Phil, How About Brooks And Brandel?

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In winning his second PGA and fourth major in his last eight starts, Brooks Koepka still gladly shared his anger at having his toughness questioned by Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.

“Telling me I wasn’t tough,” Koepka said during a news conference. “That pissed me off. That really pissed me off.”

He wouldn’t name Chamblee, but did not leave any question who he was talking about.

Chamblee spent this week walking back some of his Koepka critiquing during the week, even comparing this run to Tiger’s play in 2000.

But I believe we need to take this manspat to the next, proper level: pay-per-view!

Since The Match II hasn’t been announced yet, I’d like to propose Brooks vs. Brandel.

Koepka can play all the way back while Brandel plays from the senior tees. Brooks can give Brandel two aside and we can all bet on it. Even better, they won’t give five footers and while the witty banter won’t be there, the potential for drama will be! Think about it MGM!

Chamblee defended himself in an interview with Morning Read’s Alex Miceli and on Morning Drive, suggesting he never said Koepka was not tough, though he said at the Masters he was not convinced of Koepka’s toughness.


CBS's New "Aerial Tracing" Is Getting Slaughtered, Maybe A Bit Unfairly?

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People, people! Breathe!

Sure, the latest attempt at breakthrough technology was not perfect in its Saturday debut. GolfDigest.com’s Christopher Powers rounds up the rants in reaction to the first hole tee shot of Justin Rose, the technology’s debut on CBS.

The issue appears to be one of scale and visibility. The holes were presented horizontally, forcing a reduction in hole scale that made it hard to tell if a ball was heading for fairway or rough. The shot from the blimp kept the entire hole in view, which took us even farther away from being able to see details. There was also some uncertainty in when to cut away from the trace to the ball landing.

I still see a level of authenticity in seeing the actual hole instead of a graphic (since the graphics often do not reflect reality).

If the architectural features of the landing can be better delineated by the view, and the hole presented vertically to improve size and perspective, this could have great value.

Here is the Tweet with quite the onslaught of comments


2019 PGA First Round Ratings Hold Steady, Close To Last Year's May Players

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Paulsen at Sports Media Watch notes the “slight bump” in PGA round one ratings, the first in the new May date. Up 1% from the 2018 PGA, down 7% from 2017 PGA.

The average audience of 990,000 viewers was comparable to last year’s Players, played a week earlier, where the audience was slightly larger (1 million viewers).

Tip O' The Cap: Fox's Shane Bacon Heads To U.S. Open Sectionals

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Nice work by the Fox Sports lead-when-Joe-Buck-isn’t-working voice of golf to make the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying this year. Good luck Monday in Dallas.

Though there is a U.S. Senior Women’s Open this weekend to cover first. At least you have Mid-Pines and Pinehurst nearby for some early morning or late evening practice!