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Volume 26 No. 28
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ESPN's Masters Coverage Sees Slight Dip In Thursday Overnight Ratings

ESPN drew a 2.0 overnight rating on Thursday afternoon for opening round coverage of The Masters, down 9% from a 2.2 for last year’s first day. Thursday’s coverage from 3:00-7:30pm ET was up from a 1.6 overnight in ’17, when Tiger Woods was not competing due to injury. Thursday’s coverage featured the late stages of Woods’ round, similar to last year, which also marked his return to major championship golf. Greenville-Spartanburg led all markets on Thursday with a 4.6 rating, followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul (4.4), Buffalo (3.8), Ft. Myers-Naples (3.6) and Columbus (3.4) (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY).

The feature provides video of each shot for every player, including shot tracers and distance traveled
Photo: masters.com

NEW TECHNOLOGY HAILED: GOLFWEEK's Todd Kelly noted the ability for golf fans to watch every shot from every player at Augusta National this week via the new "Track" feature is "only the latest digital breakthrough for content on the Masters website." The new feature that provides video of each shot for every player in the field includes "shot tracers," "distance traveled" and "distance remaining to the hole." The new technology is "game-changing" (GOLFWEEK.com, 4/11). GOLF.com's Alan Bastable wrote The Masters' new technology is a "phenomenal development" and "truly mind-bending stuff." Now the rest of the golf’s governing bodies "will race to catch up with their own coverage." The Masters "used to leave fans wanting more," but now it "has them wondering, What will do they next?" (GOLF.com, 4/12). Augusta National Chair Fred Ridley said the tracking technology has been "two or three years in developing." Ridley: "We had it in a beta test mode previously, but now I feel like that we can actually execute on this" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 4/11).

THREE-MINUTE WARNING: FORBES' Simon Ogus notes the new technology is powered by IBM’s Watson, which will "produce three-minute highlight videos for each round of the tournament." Golf fans will be able to "experience nearly all of the shots in greatly abbreviated packaging as compared to watching the tournament in its entirety." These highlights packages were "previously created manually by Masters’ staff," but by teaming up with IBM they will now "allow Watson to scan through thousands of shots ... and choose the most memorable moments of each round for the highlights." The Masters specifically asked for this feature so fans can "better understand the larger storylines of the tournament while watching small pieces." IBM also will be "unveiling its OpenScale capability, which adds nuance and aims to remove bias in determining which shots to include" (FORBES.com, 4/12).

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? GOLF DIGEST's Brian Wacker wrote the new technology "begs the question: Did the Masters lose a little bit of its magic with all this too-good-to-be-true at-your-fingertips technology?" Compared to other majors, The Masters "lagged when it came to the amount of live shots available to golf-thirsty fans." But that "scarcity, along with the tournament being played at the most exclusive golf club on the planet, lent a certain aura to the Masters" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 4/11).

AUGUSTA ON THEIR MINDS...: SI.com's Stephanie Apstein noted CBS' Verne Lundquist still calls the Masters from tower at No. 16 "despite having mostly stepped back from broadcasting." He "gave up" calling college football in '16 and college basketball in ’17. But "even at 78, he can’t quite quit this place" (SI.com, 4/11). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said of covering The Masters: "Very little that we do feels overwhelming to me because it’s just sports, but it’s just one of those iconic places where you go in, sit down and what you are meant to do, well it feels a little big. You have to defuse that so you can do your job. It’s definitely one of the coolest things I get to do, and it’s the week I look forward to the most of the year" (NYPOST.com, 4/12). ESPN's Sage Steele takes THE DAILY inside her hosting duties for The Masters this week.