CBS Sports Adjusts to Masters Tournament ‘Unlike Any Other’
November date, patron-free event spur new and different approach
CBS Sports’ production team took home the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Live Sports Special for last year’s coverage of the Masters golf tournament. This weekend, the team will get a chance for a repeat with what is typically the first major of the season but was rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“To coin a phrase,” says CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, “this is going to be a Masters unlike any other. The course is going to look different. It’s going to feel different. And there are going to be no patrons, so it gives us an opportunity maybe for some new and different camera angles. We’re excited about that.”
Because the Masters is normally played in April, moving it to November left both CBS and the tournament itself with a programming challenge: how to steer clear of NFL football on the final Sunday. As a result, the final round will begin in the morning and conclude by 3 p.m. ET so that CBS Sports can follow it up with NFL coverage.
CBS Sports’ Lance Barrow, serving as coordinating producer for his 24th and final Masters tournament, says that, although there will be some new elements, such as drones and new camera positions, his philosophy remains the same: “We’re going to show the person who wins the tournament and then all the ones who are challenging that person. And that is like any other Masters. It is November and not April, but covering the competition is what we are here for. I think it will be the same as always.”
The patron-free course allows the CBS production team to consider using drones for the first time ever.
“You are going to see some new views of the course,” says McManus. “We’ve got a couple of live drones that we hope to use, and you will see a different look on certain holes. It’s going to be challenging, but I think it’s going to be really rewarding.”
The first round is tomorrow, and Barrow says the production and technical teams are still working on figuring out camera placement: “It’s kind of trial and error.”
As for the drones, Barrow says they will be treated just like another camera angle.
“We will use them accordingly,” he explains, “depending on what kind of weather we have and what kind of situations we have as to where we can put them on the course. It will be a game-time decision each day as to whether they can go in the air.”
McManus notes that he and Barrow worked on their first Masters in 1997. “Lance is doing his 44th Masters, and his first one was my first one. It also happened to be when Tiger [Woods] won in 1997 so I am excited to work with Lance on this.”
Adds Jim Nantz, lead play-by-play announcer, CBS Sports, “What an honor it has been to broadcast this tournament with [Barrow]. This will be my 35th year of being with Lance. The biggest honor in our industry is the Live Sports Emmy, and Lance won it for the 50th Super Bowl and the 2019 Masters Tournament. That is a great nod to Lance.”
The ratings competition will be tough: the tournament will be up against college football on Saturday and the early NFL slate on Sunday. Even so, McManus expects the ratings to be really good.
“Ratings go up and down,” he points out. “Fortunately, I’m pretty sure the Masters will still be the highest-rated golf tournament of the year by a wide margin.”