Live From the PGA Championship: Live Streamed Featured Groups and Social Engagement Sky Rocket at Golf’s Second Major
With more than 100 staffers both on-site and in Atlanta, Turner’s digital and social efforts push the boundaries
Tiger Woods may not have delivered the performance at this weekend’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Long Island that fans had hoped for, but interest in the recent Masters champion certainly got PGA Digital’s live streaming efforts off to a blistering start on Thursday and Friday.
The PGA’s suite of digital products – which is operated by Turner Sports – combined to deliver a 35% increase in live hours of consumption across digital on Thursday and Friday. The two days also combined to deliver new all-time records for video views to the product. Featured Group coverage generated an all-time single day high for live hours of consumption on Thursday, registering a spike of 22% over 2018. This year’s coverage also produced PGA.com’s best Thursday on record for video views, up 27% vs. last year’s opening round coverage.
The “Tiger Effort” is an obvious one for the team at Turner Sports and PGA Digital and it was a no-brainer for them to place him in one of a few star-powered Featured Groups to open the tournament on Thursday. Available exclusively on digital outlets that morning, it made PGA.com and PGA app not a second screen companion but, in fact, the primary destination for golf fans.
A Sport Emmy Award-winning product, PGA Championship LIVE is offering viewers a robust selection of unique streams again this year throughout the first two days of the tournament, before transitioning to primary linear coverage streaming after the cut in the weekend. The platform got a full redesign heading into last year’s tournament, which proved helpful to designers who only needed to make a few tweaks heading into this year’s tournament, which is being held much earlier than last year (when it was held in August). They’d happily trade in that shorter runway for the impact of being the primary destination to watch Tiger mere weeks after his incredible Masters win.
Turner – which co-produced the event with its friends at CBS Sports – has access to many of the technological enhancements that CBS will bring to its linear television coverage over the weekend. There’s the GolfTrax and Toptracer technology – available on all 18 holes this year – plus ARL Virtual Eye on 14 holes and Hawk-Eye Green Technology on four holes (11,12,15, and 17). GolfTrax showcases virtual animations of yardages, ball locations and pin placements for every hole. Hawk-Eye Green Technology meanwhile is a graphical representation of green undulations and project putt paths. Toptracer, meanwhile, shows ball flight, curve, ball speed and trajectory on approach shots.
Other than those features that are already baked into the production plans of the entire show, Gary Treater, general manager of PGA.com for Turner Sports, says his team wants to keep the stream clean for fans of the game to enjoy the action.
“We’re constantly trying new technologies to see how they impact the fan experience,” says Treater. “If we try something and see it didn’t move the needle, we won’t repeat it. We don’t do technology for technology’s sake. We tend to get the hardcore fan that comes to watch a Featured Group. So we, oftentimes, do what works and what we know enhances the product and not let too much get in the way of the action. There’s no question that the stuff that we are doing with TopTracer and GolfTrax, and the other animated elements that we’re doing definitely enhances the fan’s understanding, but it’s not too much that it gets in the way.”
The Featured Group production team also has access to use feeds from any drone or blimp aerial cameras being used on the linear show. There’s also three rf cameras deployed across the course that are at their disposal.
Turner’s production and operations infrastructure dedicated to the tournament’s digital and social efforts are impressive – both on-site on Long Island and back home in Atlanta. In the compound, NEP’s Supershooters 15 and ST28 (a B unit), in addition to more than 50 production personnel, are responsible for the Featured Group coverage on PGA.com and the PGA app. In addition, there’s six social content gatherers running and gunning on the course with six writers stationed in the media center.
According to Chris Brown, Senior Director of Operations for Turner Sports, the B unit used to be a home for the social content team in previous years but with that talent more mobile on the course and leveraging the media room, the B unit is now dedicating to the streaming of press conferences and other content (via LiveU) back to Atlanta or directly to the PGA suite of products
Meanwhile, down in Turner’s Techwood center in Atlanta, about 50-60 people are producing unique VOD content, clipping/posting highlights, monitoring the health of live streams, and much more.
The PGA Championship App is available on iOS and Android devices, as well as Roku platforms. All social content can be seen on Twitter @PGA & @PGAChampionship handles with all-access coverage from the driving range to the course and into the press room. Real-time highlights, round recaps, and live press conferences will also be available across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
PGA Digital also has added a couple of other fun and helpful features, including better up-to-the-minute coverage for users of the PGA app while on the course as a spectator at Bethpage Black. Also, Turner partnered with TopGolf to create a game where users can play homes designed to replicate the exact layouts of select holes being played by the pros on the course this weekend.
[UPDATE: May 20, 12:05 p.m. ET] This story was updated with new streaming and social media metrics made available from Turner Sports PR.