The Players Championship: NBC Sports Is Back in Full Force at TPC Sawgrass
Multiple NEP units, a crew of 350, and 30+ announcers are onsite
Despite some wet and windy weather to start The Players Championship, NBC Sports Group is out in full force at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, for golf’s “fifth major.” It has been two years since the tournament was halted as the world shut down with the onset of the pandemic, and, after a successful but challenging outing in 2021, NBC Sports’ production is back to pre-pandemic levels in Ponte Vedra Beach this week. That presence includes multiple NEP mobile units, more than 80 cameras, 30-plus on-air commentators, and a crew of 350 people on the ground.
“I’m beyond proud of my team. Most of them were here two years ago when COVID hit,” says Allison McAllister, VP, golf operations, NBC Sports Group. “To be here and see The Players Championship back to full levels is wonderful. It’s a morale booster and sign that we’re moving in the right direction. It’s exciting to be a part of an event like this.”
In all, NBC Sports will present nearly 150 hours (67.5 planned live hours) of coverage across NBC, Golf Channel, and’ Peacock this week from The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. In addition to NBC’s live tournament coverage, Golf Central Live From The Players has been onsite all week, providing lead-up coverage starting Monday and pre/postgame coverage starting on Thursday.
In the Compound and in Stamford: NBC Leverages Facilities Onsite and Back Home
NBC’s main production is run out of NEP ND7 (A, B, C, and D units), and ND1 (A, B, C, and D units) is also on hand for support. With the PGA TOUR taking over responsibility for the production compound this year, NBC has worked closely with the tour’s broadcast-media–facilities team to ensure a smooth transition.
“The partnership with PGA TOUR is going really well,” says McAllister. “The planning that goes into a show like [The Players] is monumental. It’s all about keeping lines of communication open between both of our teams. We already had a really good relationship with PGA TOUR Entertainment, and now we’re just building a stronger one and helping them through the transition as they take ownership of the compound. So far, everything is going very well and very smoothly.”
This year, NBC is once again relying on its own NEWBERT remote flypack to allow the Live From onsite studio show to be produced remotely from PCR8 at NBC Sports Group’s Sports Production Operation Center (SPOC) in Stamford, CT. The NEWBERT ST 2110 kit has 16 transmit paths and nine receives (supplemented by a few Haivision encoder/decoders). In addition to the majority of the Live From production team being back in PCR8, the set robotic cameras are being operated remotely from Stamford.
In addition to using Stamford’s PCR8 for Live From, for the first time, NBC is producing updates out of PCR6 this weekend. Historically, these live hits have been done out of a secondary control room on site at TPC Sawgrass, but NBC opted to make the move to Stanford this year.
“Our [use of Stamford] is going to continue to grow, especially with the way we produced The Open last year, as well as the Tokyo Olympics and Beijing Olympics,” says Marc Caputo, Senior director, remote technical operations, NBC Sports Group. “The goal is to continue to use Stamford as much as possible, and it’s going to expand in the future.”
Other remote aspects include Pinpoint wind and green enhancements (half of the team is onsite, the other half working from SKY’s UK headquarters) and ARL, which is operating from New Zealand. Toptracer operations are split among onsite, Stamford, and company headquarters in Sweden.
The Switch is serving as NBC’s primary transmission provider, and all tournament coverage is delivered via J2K on three outbound and two inbound paths. PSSI is on hand with a satellite uplink truck as a backup for redundancy.
Cameras and Graphics: No. 17 Gets the Works Once Again
NBC has rolled out a total of 82 cameras to serve its various properties onsite, with 70 dedicated to live tournament coverage and 12 dedicated to Live From and other shoulder programming.
One of the most storied holes in all of golf, No. 17 will once again be covered from seemingly every possible angle. Key production tools on the island-green hole include a FlyCam two-point aerial system, dedicated tee and green Toptracers, a Pinpoint wind station with a camera, a bunker cam, an Inertia Unlimited X-Mo, RF Steadicam, jib, and multiple super-slow-mos and Fletcher robos.
Live From’s dozen-camera complement includes four Telemetric robos (operated from Stamford), a tele-dolly system that offers a look similar to a jib. Live From also shares with the NBC broadcast three Robovision robotic systems located in the practice areas to show players warming up. The Live From set, located just off the 17th hole, features a new desk that was originally built for the Kentucky Derby.
In addition to Toptracers, ARL animations, and Pinpoint wind and green graphics, NBC is working with the tour, SMT, and The Famous Group to create mixed-reality graphics at the 17th hole. These Unreal Engine-powered MR segments will feature a virtually animated version of the “golden golfer” from the The Player Championship trophy, marking the first mixed reality segment to appear on a golf broadcast.
“The Players introduced a new trophy [in 2019], and the goal of these virtual graphics is for that trophy to come to life on 17,” says Caputo. “It’s a scripted series [of MR elements] that you will see throughout [the broadcast]. And the trophy’s actually going to come to life and hit golf balls and reenact famous shots that have been hit on 17 over the years.”
Golf Channel carries live coverage of The Players Championship all afternoon today (weather permitting). NBC and Peacock take over on Saturday and Sunday at 1-6 p.m. ET. Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS tees off each morning at 9 a.m., followed by coverage after each day’s tournament broadcast.