PGA Championship to Stream Free on Broadband

The 2006 edition of the PGA Championship will be the first golf event ever to stream live via broadband. Turner Network Television has partnered with PGA.com to offer 11 hours of live coverage of the event, held August 17-21. The internet coverage is advertising-supported and includes four content streams free of charge.

One stream will be dedicated to live tournament coverage, divided between exclusive Internet footage and simulcast television footage provided by TNT. A second stream, available only on PGA.com, allows viewers to follow two threesomes of players daily as they make their way through the course. The third stream, named Inside the Ropes, gives fans flyovers of the course, player profiles, highlights from historical PGA tournaments, and live access to the interview area that players enter as they finish their rounds. The fourth stream features the PGA Learning Center, and will be hosted by Rick Martino, a PGA director of instruction. Martino will tie player shots and strategies from the ongoing tournament into the golf tips he offers viewers via this stream.

The live coverage stream will begin on August 17 and 18 with two 90-minute, Internet-exclusive programs. Turner Sports New Media Senior VP Lenny Daniels explained that each program will be a complete show, akin to what airs on television, with a regular announcing crew. From 2 pm until 5 pm each day, the coverage will roll into a simulcast of the TNT television coverage. TNT will also air 60-minute programs of exclusive tournament coverage from 10 am 11 am on August 19 and 20.

The second video stream follows one group of players in the morning and one group in the afternoon on each day of the tournament. Coverage will come from both the ongoing television feed and supplemental camera angles. This second video stream will be its own broadcast with a crew of yet-to-be-named TNT announcers. The third video stream will have its own host for voiceovers, and the fourth stream will be comprised of both taped and live coverage.

All four streams are available exclusively through the PGA.com portal. From that site, fans can click into a separate page containing one main screen and four smaller screens. A click on any of the smaller screens transfers that window into the larger viewing screen. The portal will also include a video-on-demand section, from which fans can view tournament highlights.

The broadband coverage will be free, thanks to ad support from Hitachi, Travelers, and Buick, among others. Ads will appear both on the site and within the coverage, but because the program was finalized only eight weeks ago, there was limited time for advertising to be sold, and thus limited advertising on the site. Still, Daniels believes the offering has enough popularity among fans that TNT will repeat it again next year. We plan to look at the entire experience, refine it, and go out and sell it much earlier [to advertisers] next year, Daniels said.

In order to implement the multi-video streams, TNT is using CNN s Pipeline technology, premiered for online news coverage last December. The official name of the streaming video is PGA.com Pipeline powered by CNN.

If the PGA.com streaming goes off without a hitch, TNT may create a similar program for its NASCAR coverage. TNT has both television and interactive rights for six NASCAR Nextel Cup races in the summer of 2007.

Daniels believes that broadband coverage of the tournament will add exposure to TNT s coverage, not draw viewers away from their television sets. It is completely additive to our television coverage, Daniels said. This enables people who might be at work and not have access to a TV set to watch.