SBJ/Aug. 12-18, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Beth Hutter, producer, Golf Channel

Beth Hutter studied finance at the University of Virginia, but it took her only three months of working on Wall Street to know that wasn’t her future. Instead, she found her way into TV, ultimately landing at her current home, the Golf Channel, in 1999. She’s been the network’s producer on LPGA events since 2006. On the eve of the Solheim Cup this week, Hutter talked about televising women’s golf and the game’s personalities.
— Compiled by Michael Smith

Photo: COURTESY OF ELIZABETH HUTTER

Even though the LPGA has many world-class players, it’s still a U.S.-based tour and it still takes Americans playing well to see a spike in ratings. … As long as the players produce compelling golf, what we’ve found is that people will watch.



On producing the Solheim Cup:
The main difference is the number of hours of coverage. We schedule 11½ hours [daily] on Friday and Saturday, and we know that those days will actually go long. On Sunday, it’s 12:30 to 7, so that’s at least 6½ hours. One thing we’ve started doing is scheduling relief breaks for the people in the truck so that everyone can get a break. It’s a long day.

Viewership trends: It’s increasing. We came on with LPGA coverage right after the men’s British Open finished, and that Sunday we had one of our highest-rated shows. When people flip over and see golf on, they’ll leave it on, especially as long as it’s interesting and compelling.

Who moves the needle?: Michelle Wie moves the needle, whether you like it or not. It is what it is. She hasn’t won since Canada a few years ago, but if she’s sniffing the hunt or in the top 10, people watch. I know players get frustrated with me for showing her when she’s playing like a dog, but you also want viewers. You just have to grin and bear it. Stacy Lewis is starting to catch on. People know her story about playing with scoliosis. Americans, in general, move the needle.

Innovations at Golf Channel: The players are very good about trying new things. … They understand they’re not the PGA Tour and they never will be. They know they have to do something different to get people to watch. If that means coming into the truck and trading places with us for a day or being interviewed in the middle of a round, they’re totally up for it. A lot of times, you learn something about the player you didn’t know when you try new things.

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