Ryder Cup Reflections: PGA TOUR Entertainment’s Greg Hopfe On Cross-Atlantic Teamwork

Late last year the European Tour and PGA TOUR announced a new alliance that, among other things, saw the PGA TOUR acquire a minority investment stake in European Tour Productions (ETP), the European Tour’s media production company, which produces and distributes content internationally. That investment, as well as the COVID situation and its impact on international travel, allowed both organizations to take steps towards improved production efficiencies at the Ryder Cup last week. Greg Hopfe, VP of Live Television & Executive Producer, PGA TOUR Entertainment, discussed the new way the two organizations worked together as well as what it might mean for the future.

Greg Hopfe, VP of Live Television & Executive Producer, PGA TOUR Entertainment

The PGA Tour and European Tour worked very closely together at the Ryder Cup. What was that like?

I think was just a huge step forward in our partnership with the European Tour. When it was announced that there was a strategic alliance, we didn’t really know in theory what exactly that was going to mean. We knew it would just be a progression.

When the European Tour got into a bit of a bind with COVID and getting people over here for the Ryder Cup, that expedited everything. It was great to actually work so closely with them, to get to know them, and it was a major step forward. They’re going to reciprocate at the Genesis Scottish Open since it makes sense for us to use their facilities and people.

It’s cost-effective to partner up with them as they’re going to already be there in such force. So, we’re going to talk to them about how we can team up over there.

Both you and David Mould, Director of Live Television at the European Tour mentioned the challenge of overcoming terminology differences when working at the Ryder Cup. Can you talk about that?

The terminology is different and then I had a lot of unfamiliar voices in my headset when I sat down in the producer’s chair. We had a few miscommunications throughout the week due to the language barrier. For example, what we call “hard” cameras in the U.S. are called “line” cameras overseas.

A lot of the workflows were born out of COVID but what do you see as the long-term benefits and how it can make story telling better?

Obviously, we wanted to do a world feed and we also want to be cognizant of what Tommy Roy is doing for NBC domestic. With the world feed you certainly want to make sure you don’t fall into the Americanization of everything. However, on Saturday afternoon [American Ryder Cup team member] Justin Thomas was getting the crowd fired up. I chatted with European Tour director of live TV David Mould about whether we should show it and he said absolutely. So, I would lean on Dave and make sure it is something he is comfortable with.

Any tips for others who might have organizations that are coming together to work on an event in new ways like you will be doing for the Scottish Open next year?

When I think about the expertise that’s across the pond it’s going to be great for the partnership at the Genesis Scottish Open. We can just lean on their expertise and ask what trucks, facilities and crew they have. And then we need to come up with a production plan that works.

And there are efficiencies with having less cameramen out on the course. Most sports are going that way, where there is only one feed coming out of most venues. It’s smart, efficient, and less distracting for the players.

Usually, an event like the Ryder Cup would be the end of the season but that isn’t the case this year. What’s next?

Yes, we just started our new wrap-around season so we had one off week and we will get right back to PGA TOUR golf and then get a break from Thanksgiving Week until the end of December.

It’s been an eventful year for golf production with a lot of different approaches due to COVID. What’s the year been like from your perspective?

COVID forced a lot of companies and a lot of people to do things that historically they didn’t do. That’s one of the reasons Tommy was so open to helping out European Tour Productions as they had helped him out with the Open Championship when they had to produce from Stamford, CT.

And now everyone’s forced to look at things differently and I’ll be interested to see what things look like once we get through the Pandemic: which policies will stay in place, and which will end? Will tape replay and graphics be remote or go back to the same way it was?

For several years we had been doing PGA TOUR LIVE remotely from our facility in St Augustine and we’re going to do four streams remotely next year for ESPN+. So, we’ve always been a big proponent of the remote workflow, keeping staff in-house and limiting the onsite footprint in the TV compound.

 

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