PGA.com, Turner Focus on Marquee Group for PGA Championship

Golf addicts once again were able to fire up their Web browsers and visit PGA.com for coverage of early-round action at the PGA Championship, being held at Valhalla Country Club in Louisville, KY.

“We look at the live video production as a complement to the broadcast, as the idea is to go in depth with one group and see all the shots and the time between the shots,” says Gary Treater, executive producer, Turner Sports. “We tell the story of one threesome as they play for four hours.”

Because there is a lot of time to fill, he points out, the production team heads into the show with plenty of other elements.

“We create a lot of content ahead of time and have things like virtual animations of shots and instructional videos,” he explains. “We’ll sprinkle those in, and also, if something is happening outside of the marquee group, we will do cutaways and updates or press conferences in the media center.”

At the center of the production efforts are an on-course RF camera and an announce-booth camera, which are fed into the Turner Studios HD2 production unit. Approximately 60 people in the compound are working on the digital productions, with another dozen at the media center and another 20 in Atlanta.

Two marquee groups are covered every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon (ideally, the first tee time is around 8 a.m.; the second, around 1 p.m.). The marquee group for this morning is Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods; this afternoon, the winners of the three previous majors this year: Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, and Bubba Watson. Groups for Saturday and Sunday are still to be determined, but interesting pairings obviously are high on the list (as well as players who make a move up the leaderboard).

“It’s a different kind of grind than the TV broadcast. We are on-air longer, as we will do about 75 hours of live coverage on the digital platforms between Thursday and Sunday,” says Treater. “So we need to keep the crew fresh and give them breaks.”

The volume of content demonstrates just how far rightsholders have come in terms of comfort level with digital platforms.

“The perception four or five years ago was that there would be cannibalization. We never really saw that,” he says. “Frankly, fans gravitate to whatever screen they have, and they also can choose between the marquee group or the TNT simulcast via authentication. And then, the CBS simulcast is unauthenticated on Saturday and Sunday. If anything,” he adds, “as more and more devices provide a quality video experience, the level of consumption will grow because it becomes more convenient.”

One new technical feature this year makes that consumption even easier: an app able to sync with Samsung smart TVs.

“If someone is out on the patio and then goes into the living room,” Treater explains, “they can sling the video onto their smart TV without any interruption.”