Fox Readies Different U.S. Open Broadcast Than NBC, But Will Golf Fans Be Impressed?
The U.S. for two decades had "experienced the U.S. Open through NBC cameras," but that changes this week, as Fox "takes over in the first Open installment" of its 12-year, $1.1B deal with the USGA, according to Ron Sirak of GOLF WORLD. The move to Fox has created many questions that "mostly involve expectations, and there are several queries not even Fox can answer with certainty." The net had "test runs" earlier this year at the men's and women's U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships, but the U.S. Open "is the event it broke the bank for." Fox Sports Exec Producer Mark Loomis said, "The challenges more than anything are the movement around the golf course. There is little to no room for golf carts at Chambers Bay, so getting announcers, cameramen and equipment around is more challenging than I've ever seen covering golf. We know it going in, and we'll plan around it." Sirak notes the "ruggedness of the property means there will be more hand-held cameras and more mobile spider-cams as well as aerial shots -- including some by drones." Meanwhile, there also are questions around how viewers "will react to the Fox team of on-air talent," which is highlighted by Joe Buck and Greg Norman. Buck said that broadcasting golf "is unlike anything he has done." Buck: "You really don't fully understand the challenges until you do it. In the U.S. Open, you've got more than 150 players you are tracking. In baseball, you've got two teams, and you are dealing with a set roster" (GOLF WORLD, 6/15 issue). SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted there is a general "curiosity about how Fox Sports will cover" the tournament. Loomis said, "Anytime something is new, some people will like it and some people won't. I think we are entering it the right way, which is to respect the event first" (SI.com, 6/14).
TOYS IN THE ATTIC: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes Fox with its "drones, its immersive graphics, its ball tracers, its virtual reality and its microphones at the bottom of each of the 18 holes ... might turn out fine -- or distract us." Sandomir: "They might rile older fans, but get new ones. All the lessons Fox learned from televising baseball, football, hockey and NASCAR might make golf a lot more fun to watch. Or they might ruin it." The net "will probably overuse the technology at the start ... then scale it back as early as the final round on Sunday" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/17). The AP's Rachel Cohen noted there will "probably be more opportunities to use the technology on Sunday than on Thursday, as the number of players who need to be shown dwindles." However, even on Sunday, the "frequency could vary depending on how many golfers are in contention" (AP, 6/14). In Seattle, Geoff Baker noted Loomis is "leery of overusing the armada of technological bells and whistles at his disposal" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/16). In New Orleans, Trey Iles noted the "hard-core golf-watching crowd isn't one that lives on the edge of technology." It instead is a "demographic that, quite honestly, hasn't fully embraced the digital world" (NOLA.com, 6/15).
Norman (r) knows he will face strong
comparisons to NBC's Johnny Miller
READY FOR PRIMETIME PLAYERS: In Denver, Dusty Saunders noted the schedule "will produce tournament coverage during evening hours in the ratings-rich Eastern time zone" (DENVER POST, 6/15). In California, Larry Bohannan noted playing the tourney in primetime in the East "could be a big deal in a lot of different ways." The idea is to "elevate the Open to the status of a truly special event by having it break out" of the traditional afternoon window. Additionally, primetime coverage "can expose the sport to fans that might not otherwise watch much golf." However, there are some "dangers in having a prime-time event like the U.S. Open," including potentially bad weather. Even if there is "no rain, cloudy skies will cut down on the sunlight and make finishing a difficult assignment for the late starters." But Bohannan noted, "The benefits outweigh the risks" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 6/14). On Long Island, Neil Best notes Fox "cannot do any worse in ratings terms than NBC did last year," when Martin Kaymer's eight-shot win and competition from the FIFA Men's World Cup resulted in a relatively low average of 4.6 million viewers on Sunday. Fox Sports Exec VP Billy Wanger said a result like that is an "aberration" (NEWSDAY, 6/17).
TIGER STILL IN DEMAND: SI.com's Deitsch noted Fox Sports Go "will offer three alternate streams created specifically" for the U.S. Open. Tomorrow's opening round will focus on two specific groupings -- Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Angel Cabrera, who tee off at 10:33am ET, and the 5:28pm group of Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen (SI.com, 6/14). The AP's Doug Ferguson noted Woods "still moves the needle," but the question is "how much." Buck said, "Trust me, we're a network trying to get viewers. They'll get Tiger when it's appropriate" (AP, 6/14).