Wall-to-wall golf: Players Championship to stream every shot

Sports
17th hole

FILE – In this May 9, 2014, file photo, golfers play the 17th hole during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. In a first for golf, The Players Championship will make available live streaming coverage of every shot from every player.(AP Photo/John Raoux, FIle)

The PGA Tour is expanding its live video coverage of The Players Championship as far as it can go — every shot by every player in every round.

In a first for golf, and most likely the first step toward video access to every player at every tournament, The Players Championship will offer live streaming of all 144 players in the field.

Coverage will be available to “PGA Tour Live” subscribers on NBC Sports Gold or Amazon’s Prime Video channels.

“Our vision is to bring every shot in every PGA Tour golf tournament live and on-demand to our fans,” said Rick Anderson, the chief media officer for the PGA Tour. “And this is the first step to making that happen.”

The ambitious production will require about 120 cameras — some stationary, some hand-held and others part of the NBC Sports Group broadcast — to show shots that for the opening two rounds start at about 7:40 a.m. and end some 12 hours later.

Augusta National had video coverage of every shot from every player at the Masters this year, though it was available through a catalog of players chosen off its website. The difference at The Players is that every shot will be accessible live.

It’s up to the subscribers to choose whom they want to see.

PGA Tour Live for the last few years has had featured groups in the morning and afternoon that have live streaming, often the biggest names in the field that have consecutive tee times to make it easy for cameras to get to them.

That was expanded this season, with all domestic events in the fall having featured pairings for live streaming.

Now it’s every player, even those who might not be seen at all during a tournament.

“You’ll be able to click on any group and watch that group play, and we do that for every golfer in the field,” said Luis Goicouria, the tour’s senior vice president of media. “We’re not viewing it from the perspective of who wants to watch a certain golfer. We’ve known for many years that the future of our sport absolutely involves taking all the content that is happening live and making that available to our audience. In golf, that’s a huge amount of content.”

The tour is using its showcase event for the debut of its latest technology, which is not unusual. It’s where the tour first tried “Live at 17” by showing every shot from every player on TPC Sawgrass’ notorious island-green par-3 17th hole.

The announcement Monday comes as the PGA Tour already is talking to media companies about a new television deal. The current arrangement ends after 2021, and consumption habits are changing rapidly.

The Masters has the smallest broadcast window of the four majors and The Players — 18 hours over four days — and it has widened the digital coverage with live video channels from Amen Corner, the 15th and 16th holes, and a featured group, but still not the entire round. Augusta National prefers limited coverage.

The PGA Tour is all about wall-to-wall coverage, and its global distribution now includes a 10-year deal last year with Discovery and its GOLFTV arm.

“Those platforms are becoming more sophisticated, more ubiquitous and more content hungry,” Goicouria said. “Live sports of any kind is extremely valuable to media companies. … If we create and get all the content out there, it will find an audience. And there’s any number of ways to leverage this content.”

Anderson said it could take as many as five years before the tour can develop a system where live streaming of every player in the field is available and every tournament, though it was not clear if that included the three events it has in Asia.

The starting point is The Players Championship, which is March 12-15.

“We’re doing it to showcase a really major advancement at our flagship event,” Anderson said. “The idea is absolutely to get to a point where it makes economic sense. That’s still some time period away. We wanted to demonstrate it at The Players that we can do that. As it becomes more efficient and the costs come down, it’s something we can do every week eventually.”

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