CBS Sports Tees Up Major Finale with PGA Championship

While the PGA Championship may not boast the same level of tradition and prestige as that other major championship from Augusta, CBS Sports’ production team employs the same big-event, tent-pole philosophy that has made its Masters coverage so iconic over the past half century.

“From a production standpoint, we feel this is just as big as the Masters or the Super Bowl,” says CBS Sports VP of Production Harold Bryant. “We ramp up the PGA Championship with additional cameras, mics, playback machines, and a lot more specialty equipment.”

In the first year of a new deal that will keep golf’s final major on CBS through 2019, CBS Sports has pulled out all the stops for the PGA Championship’s third appearance at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, GA.

A Masters Worth of Cameras, Gear
CBS Sports is deploying 45 cameras throughout the club’s Highlands Course to produce 28 hours of total coverage (CBS is also handling the majority of Turner Sports’ TNT production). The complement includes 22 hard cameras, eight RF cameras, two roving jibs, two SwingVision extreme slow-motion systems, a plethora of robotic POV cameras, and a blimp cam.

Also on hand are two wireless ProTracer systems, which superimpose graphics to display the flight and trajectory of the ball. The ProTracer system uses a combination of CMOS sensors and advanced software analysis to allow the viewer at home to the exact path of the ball.

“You’re going to see more ProTracer shots this year,” says Bryant. “One [system] will be used in a more stationary [position] and the other can move around to different parts of the course. We might put it in the fairway, the tee box, or a few other places.”

CBS Sports will also make extensive use of its Golf Trax virtual course mapping system, which uses real-time 3D graphics to illustrate the doglegs at each hole and undulations in each green.

Lending a steady hand to CBS’s show is Lance Barrow, now in his 15th year as coordinating and lead producer for the tournament. Director Steve Milton returns alongside Barrow at the front bench.

A Compound Too Far
Over at the truck compound, CBS has three primary mobile units: NEP Supershooter 22 covering the front nine, NEP Supershooter 10 covering the back nine, and Corplex Iridium running additional cameras and EVS replay servers. . Between all the trailers, mobile units, and uplinks, CBS has 20-plus trucks on hand in Atlanta, including dedicated trucks for graphics (complete with seven Chyron Duet CGs), editing, audio, distribution, and RF operations.

“It’s like a little city down there,” says Bryant. “It’s not like the Masters because we have to create this city from scratch. The Masters is difficult as well, but at least we know we’re going to the same compound each year. But with the [PGA Championship], it’s a new compound with new dimensions, new cable runs, and so on.”

In order to connect the compound with the dozens of cameras scattered throughout the golf course, CBS has laid down more than 28 miles of fiber.

“The big problem is that the compound location is very far from the golf course,” says Ken Aagaard, EVP, engineering, operations & production services, CBS Sports. “So it was a greater expense and exposed us to cable damage. The other big problem is the heat the crew has to work in to run [all the cable].”

However, while the cabling at Atlanta Athletic Club has been a massive undertaking, it is actually a step down from last year when Aagaard & Co. lined the sprawling Whistling Straits links-style course in Kohler, WI, with more than 35 miles of cable – the largest fiber install in CBS Sports history.

“This is actually simpler and shorter than Whistling Straits,” says Aagaard. “Whistling Straights was as difficult a course to cable as there could ever be. Links courses are much tougher.”

CBS-Turner Madness Hits The Links
The PGA Championship also marks the latest chapter CBS Sports’ partnership with Turner Sports, which took a colossal leap forward following the two network’s 14-year, $10.8 billion multiplatform rights deal for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

CBS is overseeing the bulk of the production for both networks, while Turner will use its own talent and producer/director. TNT’s 18 hours of exclusive live coverage includes six hours per day on Thursday and Friday (1-7 p.m. ET), as well as early live coverage on Saturday and Sunday (11a.m. – 2 p.m. ET).

“It has always been a great partnership, but March Madness has made it even smoother,” says Bryant. “We obviously work very closely with them and tailor the coverage for them when needed. If there is a certain group they want to focus on, we will cover it. We talk about story lines and where they want to position their talent. It is a very cohesive working relationship with them.”

In addition, Turner is independently producing live coverage of two marquee groups and multiple Par 3 holes, which is being streamed exclusively on PGA.com (part of Turner Sports’ digital portfolio).

“We are proud of the production we are able to jointly create with our colleagues at CBS during the PGA Championship,” says VP/GM of Sports Operations Matt Hong. “Our collaboration provides golf fans with innovative, top-notch coverage of one of the PGA’s most popular and storied tournaments.”

DirecTV PGA Championship Experience
CBS Sports has also deployed two dedicated trucks to for DirecTV’s PGA Championship Experience, which includes coverage of two Par 3 holes as well as an “In-Depth” channel that provides highlights, analysis, and live look-ins throughout the day.