A New Paradigm for TV Golf is Needed

December 17, 2019- by Steven E. Greer

I was honestly going to write an essay about the need for a new paradigm of golf coverage before I saw these developments. Golf is reporting that the PGA Tour, as it negotiates new TV contracts with CBS and NBC, is triggering major changes in the way that CBS covers golf. Long-timers, such as Gary McCord and Peter Kostis, have been dropped and the head producer, Lance Barrow, is leaving at the end of the 2020 season.

The article states, “Barrow is only the second person ever to hold the position of lead producer for CBS’ golf coverage. He’s heading into his 23rd year in the role, having inherited the title of coordinating producer from legendary CBS Sports producer Frank Chirkinian in 1997.

Barrow is a CBS lifer. He started at the company in 1976 as a spotter and researcher for hall of fame broadcaster Pat Summerall before working his way up the ladder. In his role as lead producer, he’s been responsible for nearly everything you’ve seen watching golf on CBS for the last quarter century. The network’s coverage of the Masters, PGA Championship and PGA Tour, as well as its pacing, tone and technology all fall under Barrow’s purview.

The announcement marks the largest change for the network in an offseason filled with high-profile additions and subtractions. Peter Kostis and Gary McCord, both longtime faces of CBS Golf, are no longer with the network. While Davis Love III, Trevor Immelman and Michelle Wie are joining the network in varying capacities for the 2020 season.”

One interesting comment in the article was how the Tiger Woods Masters telecast this year drew record audiences while the PGA Championship, with Brooks Koepka, drew low audiences. I don’t think Brooks is to blame. The scheduling of the PGA Championship is a big mistake. I have argued that it needs to be dropped as a major and replaced by The Players Championship.

When even an avid golfer tunes into a golf presentation now, they are immediately lulled to sleep by scenes of a player lining up a putt for more than a minute as announcers ramble about unrelated mind-numbing conversation. The voices of the announcers are unbearable most of the time, to me at least. They are the voices of old curmudgeons, constantly nay-saying and hand-wringing, trying to make the easiest of chips seem impossible. They exude low energy. I literally watch TV golf on mute and in fast-forward mode until I see a player I am want to watch.

I know a thing or two having been a pioneer in video media since 2006 and having worked at major networks, such as Reuters and Fox. The senior executives at many of the national TV news programs listen to my advice. So, here are some of my suggestions for changing the paradigm of golf TV production:

  • Hire younger announcers with more optimistic voices. Voices that are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me include Paul Azinger, Lanny Wadkins, David Duval, Johnny Miller, to name just a few. Voices that are not bothersome to me, at least, include Jim Nance, Mike Tirico, Nick Faldo, and David Feherty.
  • Hire credible swing coaches who understand the swing and can perform proper analysis on TV. The Golf Channel has Chris Como. I personally think that Jason Carbone would do a great job.
  • Stop cutting to players long before they are ready to hit a putt or shot.
  • Cut out the dead-air that has to be filled by inane chat from the announcers.
  • Cut down on the announcer chatter, in general. It is a 1950’s TV mindset that perpetuates this misconception that we the viewer must have nonstop chatter in our ears or else we will tune out.
  • Tell the stories of the lesser-known players better. For example, I follow Ryan Armour because he is a Buckeye. He was a late bloomer and did not succeed on tour until he was 40. He also is the shortest hitter on tour but competes well against Cam Champ. That is all fascinating, yet no one has heard of him.
  • Have companion website coverage that is nothing but edited shots for each player throughout the round. I personally just want to see how a few players performed in sequential manner. The PGA Tour app has a nice function that shows each shot in graphic form. They need to add videos to those shots.
  • Revive the 3D TV experiments of a decade ago. It is essential to see the greens and fairways in 3D.

As a word of caution, the pendulum should not swing too far the other way, as Fox Sports did with the USGA events when they hired plastic-faced female announcers and Joe Buck, to create more of an NFL presentation. Golf is a classy subdued sport. The CBS coverage of the Masters should be the goal.

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