SBJ/Dec. 14, 2009/This Week's News

Golf Channel’s new studio: Just add the sand

Golf Channel will kick off the new year by introducing a fully overhauled studio complete with high-definition cameras, a host of new technology and one feature that network executives believe cannot be found on any other studio show in the world.

“We’ve even got a sand trap,” said Dan Overleese, vice president of operations at Golf Channel.

New technology includes the addition of an AboutGolf brand simulator and a 23-by-13-foot video screen that will expand the capability of golf instruction shows and analysis shots made during PGA Tour and LPGA tournaments. AboutGolf has image rights to six courses on the 2010 PGA Tour schedule, including Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.

A big video screen works as part of a shot
simulator. A corner of the sand trap is at
lower right.

Golf Channel has long-term exclusive cable deals with the PGA Tour and LPGA.

The new studio also includes upgrades from SportsMedia Technology, including interactive touchpoint screens, telestrators and update scrolls linked to scoring programs operated by the different golf tours.

There were three news and interview sets built into the 4,700-square-foot studio during its last overhaul in 2003. “The Golf Fix,” the network’s lead instructional show, was shot on a portable set that was wheeled in front of a small projector covered by a net.

The studio now has what Overleese calls four “environments.” The shot demonstration area has a putting green, sand trap, tee box, fairway and two cuts of rough. There is also an analysis area in front of the touch screens and a new interview set. The anchor desk used for the network’s “Golf Central” news show pivots 180 degrees to provide different background looks and more depth of field.

Other updates include overall design, lighting and other infrastructure. 

The changes are part of a facilitywide upgrade to high-definition. Previously, only live coverage of events and nonstudio original programming aired in HD.

Golf Channel declined to disclose the price of the upgrade, but said a wider variety of sponsored elements should help offset the costs.

The design was completed by Jack Morton/PDG, which has worked on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” the NBA on TNT, MLB Network, Showtime and NBA TV. Construction was handled by Massachusetts-based Mystic Scenic Studios, which has built sets for ESPN, NESN and CN8.

Comcast-owned Golf Channel launched its own HD network in November 2008 and is now in 26 million homes. The new studio will debut on Jan. 4 with “Golf Central.”

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