SBJ/Jan. 20-26, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

PGA Tour’s digital redesign puts mobile first

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The PGA Tour’s digital team will produce at least 50 percent more live golf on its various platforms in 2014.

This enhanced priority for more live golf comes at a time when the tour is redesigning its website, PGATour.com, as well as its mobile and tablet platforms. The new versions are expected to be unveiled in the first quarter of this year. The tour’s systems integration partner, Omnigon, is leading the redesign.

“It’s going to have cleaner navigation, less clutter, bigger pictures and bigger images,” said Luis Goicouria, the tour’s vice president in the digital division.

The tour, after several years of working with Turner as its digital partner, brought the digital rights in-house last year. In the first year, the tour saw its monthly unique visitors increase 10 percent, but it was surprised to find that nearly 50 percent of its traffic was coming from mobile. It expected mobile traffic to account for less — closer to 30 percent or 40 percent — because so many golf fans tend to use the site on Thursdays and Fridays from their desk at work.

The tour’s digital team, led by Goicouria and senior director Scott Gutterman, had planned to do a site redesign for 2014 anyway, but the traffic patterns influenced how they have gone about it.

“We designed the mobile first,” Gutterman said. “We looked at, ‘How is the fan going to experience PGATour.com on mobile’ first, then desktop second.”

Goicouria and Gutterman said making the platform responsive is a trend that they’ve seen with entities like The Boston Globe and NASCAR.com, but it remains fairly cutting edge, they said.

“We want a consistent experience across all of the platforms,” Goicouria said. “But it’s going to be inspired by how people use mobile first. It’s not designed with click in mind, it’s designed with touch screen in mind. There won’t be the small links that your fat fingers can’t click on.”

With the move to a more visual experience on PGATour.com comes a greater priority on streaming more live golf. Most tour events are televised by Golf Channel on Thursdays and Fridays, while the over-the-air networks, either CBS or NBC, broadcast the events on the weekends. Most of that televised action is simulcast online, a practice the tour started last year.

But Goicouria says more than 70 percent of the golf played on the PGA Tour is outside of the TV window.

“Even during the TV window, you’ve got 18 holes in play and multiple groups on each hole,” said Goicouria, who expects the digital division to grow from 50 employees to about 65 this year. “There’s only so much golf you can get on TV. In most sports, you see most or all of the action on TV. In golf, you don’t. That’s what presents an opportunity for more live golf on PGATour.com.”

It’s an opportunity that comes with a price tag. Goicouria didn’t specify how much it will cost PGATour.com to produce the additional live golf. But suffice it to say that it’s expensive.

The tour will find some efficiencies by taking the live feed from its network partners. But the website also will have its own production team, announcers, graphics and features. The tour intends to put its own camera crew on the course so that it won’t be limited in capturing footage. That’s costly, Goicouria said, when you’re covering a golf tournament over 250 or so acres.

“The challenge to getting all of this done is the expense,” Gutterman said. “The cameras, the cabling, even with today’s technology, it’s still tough to bring that all together on all of our different platforms. It’s very expensive to produce.”

Advertising will have to support the additional expenses. Goicouria said ad revenue has been surging behind the endemics, especially Titleist, Nike and Callaway.

About 40 percent of the digital advertising comes from official marketing partners and title sponsors, such as FedEx, Avis and MasterCard. The other 60 percent comes from outside that group, including companies such as EMC, Unilever, BlackBerry and Southwest Airlines.

The tour’s digital division sells all of the advertising for PGATour.com.

The tour’s official site has brought live golf to its viewers in the past through its branded coverage, “Live At,” which streams live action from a particular hole. PGATour.com has run “Live At” at anywhere from seven to 10 of its 45 events each year.

Goicouria says that number will grow to at least 15 tournaments this year.

PGATour.com also will expand its offerings at those 15 events. In addition to the featured hole, the digital team is looking at broadcasting featured pairings and players.

They’re also enhancing the graphics capability with:
ShotTracer to follow the ball in flight;
SwingVision to analyze player swings in the featured group;
And yardage markers to compare drives in the group with the longest drives of the day on a particular hole.

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