NBC Sports Group Goes Full Tilt Down Under at Presidents Cup

In what NBC Sports Group lead golf producer Tommy Roy calls “the greatest example of synergy yet” between newly aligned NBC and Golf Channel, the two networks are combining to produce an unprecedented 51½ hours of Presidents Cup coverage this week from Australia.

Despite a seemingly debilitating 16-hour time difference between Melbourne and the U.S. Eastern Time Zone, Golf Channel will produce nearly 30 hours of live coverage of all four rounds, marking the first time that the entire Presidents Cup competition played outside of North America will be presented live in the U.S.

“[This level of live coverage] is monumental. The television landscape is changing, and this is the evolution of sports coverage,” says Roy. “In today’s society with the 24-hour news cycle, fans want to see sporting events live. Airing all four days live on Golf Channel and weekend re-airs on NBC give viewers more options to watch.”

NBC Sports Group Takes Golf Act Down Under
NBC is the primary production entity on hand at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, providing the world feed of all the match-play action between the U.S. and international teams.

Roy and company have deployed a total of 29 cameras throughout the course, including three super-slo-mos. NBC will not have an ultra-slow-motion camera system on hand, because “this week is not about dissecting the golf swings of the players,” says Roy. “We are going to [focus on] capturing the raw emotions of the players and the teams during the matches.”

NBC is using OB trucks from Global Television, the same Australia-based mobile-production provider that supplied the bulk of the facilities for the network’s coverage of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

“With our experience working with Global and other vendors at [the Sydney Olympics], arranging production resources has gone very smoothly,” says Roy. “But the time difference from the U.S. — 16 hours ahead — does make daily business little more difficult.”

In all, Golf Channel is presenting 28½ hours of live coverage throughout the tournament and will team with NBC for 23 hours of repackaged coverage. In addition, Golf Channel has 22 hours of shoulder programming laid out, including daily installments of Live From the Presidents Cup, which is originating from both Melbourne (featuring host Steve Sands, analysts David Feherty and Curt Byrum, and reporter Todd Lewis) and the network’s Orlando studios.

“[During Live From the Presidents Cup], the two sets will chat back and forth,” says Roy. “Then members of the tournament team will join Live From the Presidents Cup following each day of action to give reaction and analysis to Golf Channel viewers.”

NBC Sports Group also has a full stable of on-air talent Down Under: Terry Gannon and Byrum are handling the majority of play-by-play and lead analysis for Golf Channel, and Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller contributes on Days 3 and 4 for both Golf Channel and NBC. Also joining the coverage will be Gary Koch, Roger Maltbie, Dottie Pepper, Jimmy Roberts, and Tim Rosaforte.

The Buzz Word Is Synergy
The unprecedented live coverage seemed like a pipe dream as recently as the latest Presidents Cup, in 2009. However, Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal and the resulting creation of NBC Sports Group has produced an entity capable of delivering all four rounds live on Golf Channel along with high-profile re-airs on Saturday and Sunday on NBC.

“I can tell you that there would have been no way that the Presidents Cup would have aired live all four days prior to the merger,” says Roy. “It is great for all of us working the tournament and even greater for golf fans worldwide. The merger earlier this year allows us to better serve the viewers by providing them the options to watch live at night on Golf Channel or on tape delay the next afternoon on NBC.”

An Olympic Preview?
The Presidents Cup coverage offers a preview of what NBC Sports Group may have in store for the London Summer Olympics next year. NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus has said that every single event will be covered live on NBC’s various networks and online, a marked departure from NBC’s coverage under the previous regime, which reserved marquee events solely for primetime widows.

However, similar to its strategy of re-airing the final Presidents Cup rounds on NBC during the daytime on Saturday and Sunday, NBC Sports Group will continue to push viewers toward the lucrative primetime window using its traditional high-profile coverage model that includes a mix of human-interest features and taped events.