It’s a New Era for CBS Sports Golf as PGA TOUR Takes Over Onsite Facilities
The broadcaster’s production, announce teams will remain in place for coverage
The PGA TOUR’S new wave of rights deals is launching a new era for CBS Sports’ live-production operations. Although the broadcaster’s production team and announcers will continue to be in the trucks and the towers, respectively, the PGA TOUR is now coordinating the onsite facilities and below-the-line personnel, including mobile units, announce towers, and technical facilities.
“The TOUR will actually be supplying the below-the-line personnel in step-by-step conjunction with CBS,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said on a media call. “We’ll continue to work closely with them on this process of our broadcast. But it’s important to know that our production quality is going to be the same as it has always been and our personnel will still be in the same positions in the trucks and the announce towers that they’ve been in the past.”
PGA Will Be Responsible for Tech Infrastructure
Sellers Shy, who took over last year as only the third lead producer in the history of CBS Sports golf, will return to the front bench alongside lead director Steve Milton and the rest of the CBS Sports golf production and technical personnel. In addition, CBS’s roster of on-air talent — led by anchor Jim Nantz and lead analyst Nick Faldo — will be back in the announce towers, calling the action. The only difference will be that CBS will no longer be in charge of booking the facilities in which their production and announce teams work.
As part of the PGA TOUR new rights deal inked by CBS, ESPN, and NBC in March 2020, the TOUR has assumed responsibility for the onsite production area and technical infrastructure each week. The hope is that the new workflow will enable the TOUR to more efficiently aggregate, distribute, and develop content for its various platforms worldwide. CBS and NBC will still use their respective production and announce teams, led by their producers, directors, and production personnel.
“[The TOUR] is implementing not just our coverage but all the ancillary feeds that ESPN+ and [NBC’s] Golf Channel have,” said McManus. “The thought was, combining the resources of all those different feeds and having the TOUR provide the below-the-line facilities seemed like a very efficient and good way to move forward.
“However,” he continued, “that doesn’t change at all our production lineup. That’s the same as it was last year. The technicians who’ve been doing golf with us for so long will all be coming back. It’s just that we will not be booking the actual facilities that are being used. But you won’t see anything different on the air. We’ve worked hand in glove with the PGA TOUR to make sure that this will be a smooth transition.”
Under the new plan, McManus and Shy said equipment levels will not suffer and will actually be higher in some cases than they were in 2021.
“Based on these ancillary productions,” said Shy, “that means that there’s equipment that we can use. And so we need to find more space in our truck and on our monitor wall to take in all these feeds. That’s what we’re excited about. It’s nothing more than an enhancement to our coverage. So those are the challenges: just finding the space to bring in all the equipment.”
Production Tech: Constant Leaderboard Returns; AR Set Replaces Roving Cart
After his first year in the producer’s chair, Shy is excited to build on some of the key production technologies introduced last year — most notably, the translucent constant mini-leaderboard graphic. After some initial trepidation from old-schoolers, the leaderboard bug became a hit with golf fans, and, this year, CBS’s graphics department has made it bolder and more defined.
“We’re enhancing our constant leaderboard even more,” Shy said. “We’re hoping to draw your eyes to that bottom-right area. We’re always looking for ways to enhance that spot.”
From a production-tech perspective, the biggest change will be a new augmented-reality virtual set for on-course reporter Amanda Balionis, which will replace the on-course SmartCart CBS has deployed since 2016.
“Amanda’s cart is now technically gone,” Shy explained, “but it’s more virtual, and we’re excited about that. All of the graphics will be virtual in her area — whether it’s during interviews or [reviewing] highlights that she wants to talk about or the leaderboards of other tournaments. We’re looking forward to rolling that out [this week] at Torrey Pines.”
According to Shy, CBS Sports will continue to increase use of drones — which proved to be a hit with viewers last year — and add to its arsenal of TopTracer ball-tracking systems throughout the season.
Opening Week: Special Saturday Primetime Finish; Nantz Pulls Double Duty
CBS Sports broadcast its first PGA TOUR event in 1951 and will tee off its 65th consecutive season this week with The Farmers Insurance Open from Torrey Pines in San Diego. However, even relationships that go back that far still have firsts: to avoid conflicting with the NFL’s conference championships on Sunday, the Farmers will be the first opening tournament on network television to conclude in primetime on Saturday night.
“It will be a special Saturday finish — the first time, I think, ever on network television,” said McManus. “We think it will be a seamless broadcast, and we are pleased that we could make it work. I thank the PGA TOUR and [the Farmers Insurance Open] for coming up with a really creative and, I think, very successful programming schedule.”
Nantz will call the Friday and Saturday golf action remotely from Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, where he will be preparing to call the Bengals-Chiefs AFC Championship Game on Sunday. Although he is no stranger to calling golf remotely, this will be among the highest-profile cases of double duty in his storied career.
Nantz will be in place at Arrowhead by Wednesday, where he plans to watch the opening two rounds and be in constant touch with Shy and the production team on the ground in San Diego — while also conducting production meetings with Bengals and Chiefs players and coaches. On Friday and Saturday, Nantz will call the action from a production trailer at Arrowhead, where he’ll have direct comms to the truck and fellow announcers at Torrey Pines. On Sunday, he will shift back into NFL mode and call what is sure to be CBS’s most-watched broadcast of 2022.
“It’s a new challenge,” he said, “so I’m excited about it. You know, there aren’t many things that you do that are all that vastly different from year to year. I’m pretty much accustomed to the stretch from the Final Four to the Masters. I’ve done that 36 times. So this will be something that I’ll relish [having] the chance to do.”
CBS Sports tees off its 2022 PGA TOUR season at the Farmers Insurance Open from Torrey Pines on Friday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+.