Time For A New Broadcast Model

After being critical last week about the lack of innovation in the first-ever Fox Network broadcast of the US Open, I watched the final round coverage of the Travelers Championship on CBS over the weekend, and found myself rolling my eyes.

There were Nick Faldo (sorry, mate, that’s “Sir Nick”) and Jim Nantz, sitting at their usual desk, in their usual blazers and ties, and I couldn’t help thinking how stupid this looks.

A week before, we’d watched Greg Norman and Joe Buck sitting at a desk, in blazers and ties.  And many other weeks, we watch Johnny Miller and Dan Hicks sitting at a desk, in blazers and ties (although, to NBC’s credit, they often let Johnny and Dan go with just a blazer, and if it’s a really low-level event, with a golf shirt instead of a dress shirt.  This is progress.)  And over on the Golf Channel, with their often interminable analysis of golf events, it’s blazers, ties and desks, too.

All of this got me thinking… isn’t it time the networks took a new approach to covering golf tournaments?   I mean, why do they all believe that old white guys in blazers and ties, sitting behind a desk, is desirable and appropriate?  Sure, I’m a traditionalist, and I’m an old white guy, but jeez, can we not get with the times?

Here are a few suggestions for livening up golf broadcasts, and dare I say, perhaps attracting an under-55 demographic to the broadcast, and the sport…

  • Jackets for the anchors, fine… but lose the blazers, and find something a little more youthful from, say, Banana Republic. Under the jackets, give ‘em golf shirts, or half-zip pullovers.  No more white shirts and yellow or pink ties.  Below the jackets, khakis, not dress flannels.
  • Lose the desk. If you need to have notes in front of you, sit or stand with a clipboard.
  • Lose the phony anchor sets, especially the ones with fireplaces and portraits of Jones and Hogan in the background. Put the guys in a studio, if you must, against a green screen, then superimpose different shots of the action around the course behind them… let them turn and face the screen as they say, “okay, here’s the lie in the rough that Bubba’s facing on this shot…” like a weatherman refers to his maps.
  • Show the field reporters, from time-to-time. I keep hearing David Feherty and Peter Kostis and Gary Koch, but for all I know, they could be talking from a bar in Cincinnati.  It adds credibility to know they’re on the scene, so show them as they describe Bubba’s lie.
  • Less off-the-cuff chatter from the anchors would be good, too. I really don’t care that Jim Nantz had a nice dinner with some college football coach last week, or that Faldo had a similar shot to Bubba’s in the 1996 Nissan Open.  Between shots, why not throw to a colleague who will explain some interesting stats or outline the rules, or to a short clip on a player’s background?  The only way I know anything about players’ backgrounds and lives is if I read about them in online golf magazines.  Why can’t the networks make more of an effort to fill in the blanks and colour the personalities?
  • Younger people on the team. Golf is still played and watched by people younger than 45… name one network broadcaster who is.
  • Show the leaderboard more often. CBS in particular is notorious for flashing the standings up on the screen for about two seconds as they go to commercial, not enough time for the viewer to read and absorb where things stand.  Fox, to their credit, kept a box showing the top five players, on screen at all times.  I’m surprised CBS didn’t pick up on this… it seems such an obvious improvement.
  • Lose the blimp, and give me drones. Pretty as those 1,500-foot shots from the blimp are, they’re really a waste of time.  But if networks used drones, hovering at 30-60 feet, that would give a really good wide-angle perspective on the players and their immediate surroundings.  The technology is there, why isn’t anyone using it?
  • More reporting on golf developments. Further to point 5, tell me more about the impact that this week’s tournament, or today’s results, may have on certain players’ status.  For example, I had no idea until I saw it in Monday’s online coverage, that Graham DeLaet, Luke Donald, Carl Pettersson and Brian Harman used the Travelers to qualify for the (British) Open in two weeks.  Maybe they mentioned this in passing on the broadcast, but if so, I missed it.  In any case, more colour, less chatter would be great.

That’s it for now.   More broadcast thoughts to come in a future blog.

Jim Deeks
Jim Deeks has been writing for Fairways for over a dozen years. He is a former Executive Director of the Canadian Open and Canadians Skins Game, and currently the Executive Producer of CANADA FILES on PBS.

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