PGA broadband success makes Turner Sports’ Levy a believer

By Ken Kerschbaumer

The decision by PGA.com and TNT to deliver live streaming video from the 2006 PGA Championship last week has turned out to be a wise one as more than 16 million page views were registered on the second day alone. And for Turner Network Television it even led to a bump in the ratings, getting golf-hungry fans a taste during the workday that translated to the tube. And even better, it didn t require reinventing the wheel.

We were able to use different technologies and software that were already created for CNN s Pipeline service and apply it to a non-subscription model, says David Levy, Turner Sports president.

CNN Pipeline is a broadband-only subscription product that allows viewers to tune into one of four live video streams and also watch all four at once via a mosaic along the bottom of the screen. By building a new front-end on the Pipeline back-end technology Turner Networks was able to leverage previous work in a similar fashion to the way Viacom broadband services build off of technology originally created for MTV.

We were able to give the viewer something they couldn t see on the linear side of the TV service, says Levy. For example, tee times for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson began before Turner began its broadcast. Only 2% of a golf tournament actually makes it to TV viewers, he adds, showing just how much potential lies ahead in online streaming of golf events.

The fear when it comes to online streaming is that it will impact ratings as viewers stay away from the TV tube. But the two million unique views coupled with growth from 1.4 rating last year to 1.5 this year means a more effective ad buy.

There s an opportunity to use this for our basketball coverage, giving viewers something like a Lebron cam, says Levy. This is the start of what I believe will be a big opportunity for sports programming.