Turner Sports’ PGA.com Delivers for Golf’s Most Digitally Connected Tournament

When selecting a marquee group to follow throughout the final major tournament of 2013, you can’t get any more “marquee” than this year’s Masters, U.S. Open, and British Open champions. Add Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, and Keegan Bradley into the mix, and the PGA Championship — arguably the most digitally connected and social major — is poised to attract a crowd to PGA.com, powered by Turner Sports.

PGA Championship LIVE features live marquee-group coverage throughout the tournament.

PGA Championship LIVE features live marquee-group coverage throughout the tournament.

The 95th PGA Championship is under way, and PGA Championship LIVE, PGA.com’s broadband video player, is following two marquee groups during the first two rounds. One group comprises Adam Scott, Justin Rose, and Phil Mickelson, teeing off Thursday afternoon and Friday morning; the other consists of Woods, Keegan, and Bradley, slated for Thursday morning and Friday afternoon. Marquee-group coverage for Saturday and Sunday are to be determined.

In addition, PGA Championship LIVE provides live streams of the course’s Par-3 holes and the pressroom. Turner Sports is deploying three dedicated RF cameras to follow the marquee groups over 18 holes and additional cameras for its Par-3 and pressroom coverage. Including a simulcast of the linear broadcast, Turner will stream approximately 38 hours of coverage over the four days.

“It gives us that ability to get much closer and give the viewers who are watching the marquee-group coverage a more focused and intimate view of what goes on with the golfers between shots,” says Tom Sahara, VP, operations and technology, Turner Sports. “Much of what we see on the broadcast is just the shot, but here you get to see the walk-ups; you get to see them looking over their shot. It gives you a much more in-depth view of what goes on between shots.”

The new PGA Championship LIVE Android app includes a player locator, accessible by fans on-site and at home.

The new PGA Championship LIVE Android app includes a player locator, accessible by fans on-site and at home.

The network has access to CBS’s full complement of cameras for both its PGA Championship LIVE product and TNT broadcast. However, Turner has quite the on-site presence, deploying TBS HD 2 for its PGA Championship LIVE product.

“We have a whole separate production group that just works on the digital production,” explains Gary Treater, senior director of business operations, PGA.com. “One thing that’s new this year is, we’ll have a set on the course. Historically, we’ve had our set in the truck, and we’re taking the set to the course. We’ll be near the clubhouse, practice range, the putting green — a strategic location for fans to be able to see more of the course.”

PGA Championship LIVE is available on a variety of mobile platforms, including desktop, mobile Web, iOS, and Android devices. This year’s PGA Championship LIVE includes a larger screen built using a responsive design and adaptive-bitrate streaming that adjusts the display according to the device.

Upping the App Ante
In addition to a revamped iOS product, Turner Sports is debuting a new PGA Championship iPad app and Android app.

The iPad app provides users with news, video alerts, detailed leaderboard and scorecards, and access to live video streaming. The Android app offers access to news, the leaderboard, and a player locator. Turner Sports’ mobile products for the PGA Championship are built using a simple, user-friendly design.

“[It’s] no surprise to anyone that more consumption is happening on mobile devices; we’re seeing organic shift there. So we’re obviously programming our content to accommodate people by device,” says Treater. “One of the things we’ve learned is to make the application really simple. Make it easy for [fans], rather than loading in everything that you could get on the desktop, focusing on the three or four types of content that people really want.”

The new iPad app provides three dominant screens for live video, live scoring, and media.

The new iPad app provides three dominant screens for live video, live scoring, and media.

For the third consecutive year, fans are permitted to use mobile devices while attending the PGA Championship. Turner’s mobile products include venue-specific features like player locators and course information.

To further enhance the at-course experience, Turner worked with Oak Hill Country Club to install a high-density WiFi network, targeting frequently trafficked areas (fans do not have to be logged into the WiFi network to access the app or mobile site on-site).

“We are putting [WiFi] around selected areas — around the clubhouse and some of the hospitality areas, mainly where people congregate and then sit back and relax and are looking to browse with their mobile devices,” says Sahara. “We’ve been working very closely with PGA to identify where these locations are and working with these providers to get the capacity, get the fiber connection, [and] work out how to mount all of the WiFi access points.”

Panoramic Plans for PGA.com
On PGA.com, Turner Sports plans to return its 360-degree camera, a high-resolution camera that debuted several years ago and provides a live panoramic image that fans can drag right and left or up and down in a full circle.

PGA.com's desktop offerings include a 360-degree camera that fans can move in real time.

PGA.com’s desktop offerings include a 360-degree camera that fans can move in real time.

“We have several locations mapped out,” says Treater. “Early in the day, around the practice range, practice tee, clubhouse, and the first tee, where people can move around and see what’s going on … We’re also looking at some additional locations on the back nine that would be potentially pivotal holes.

Fans looking to try out the 360-degree camera do so by logging onto PGA.com on a desktop. The camera is not included in Turner’s mobile offerings.

“We’ll have a complete schedule of what holes [fans] will be able to access at what times so we’re excited,” he continued. “We’re trying to take it to the next level, and we believe that technology is evolved where we can provide a really great experience for our fans.”

In addition, for the first time ever, fans voting on PGA.com will be able to determine the location of the 15th hole, a Par 3. Fans can vote through Saturday Aug. 10, with the winning location unveiled on Sunday Aug. 11 during the final round.

And TV, Too
In addition to its extensive on-line offerings, Turner Sports will broadcast 18 hours of exclusive live programming on TNT, 1-7 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (CBS’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and ends at 7 p.m. both days).

TNT is including several CBS production tools in its telecast, including a super-slo-motion camera for swing analysis (CBS’s SwingVision, renamed TNT Total Motion for Turner’s linear broadcast) and Protracer, which leverages a high-resolution camera to track the flight of the ball on certain holes. Both TNT and PGA.com are also incorporating Golf Trax, a virtual tour of the course along with an aerial view of a player’s ball direction and a 360-degree view of each hole.

This marks the 23rd consecutive year of Turner Sports’ coverage of the PGA Championship and TNT’s 15th straight year televising the event. TNT commentators include Sports Emmy Award-winning host Ernie Johnson, analysts Ian Baker-Finch and Billy Kratzert, and reporter Vince Cellini.