In a world of rising broadcast costs, the 2015 NSW Open showed live streaming is a legitimate alternative.
MY FIRST first experience of live broadcasting was, shall we say, interesting. A call from Fox Sports to work on the 2006 Jacobs Creek Open resulted in a Wednesday arrival at Royal Adelaide Golf Club, the day before the event began. With enthusiasm oozing from every pore, I readied myself for what I assumed would be a day of on-the-job training as an on-course commentator.
The reality: I was handed a microphone and shown how to switch it on. That was followed by a warning to be careful not to talk over the other commentators, and to switch off when not in use. It was a classic ‘sink or swim’ scenario, and there were more than a few tosses and turns in bed that night as my mind went into overdrive trying to digest what was in front of me.
Somehow, I managed to get invited back for a second gig. Nearly 10 years later I’ve been a part of more than 100 golf broadcasts. It is a job where no two weeks are the same, and where the ability to react to changing circumstances is a prerequisite. That said, I couldn’t have anticipated just how much the landscape of broadcasting would alter in the short period that I’ve been involved.
The continual evolution of the internet and its ability to disseminate information quickly has seen the once impregnable commercial TV networks under significant pressure to survive. This, in turn, has seen networks slash and burn with regard to personnel and programming. A decade ago, governing bodies and tournament promoters in Australia could expect networks to pick up the cost of the broadcast, and possibly even a contribution in terms of a rights fee in return for exclusivity. Now, tournament organisers pick up the bills and pass them onto a sponsor.
The cost of broadcasting live golf events is a major roadblock for the growth of the professional game. Even a basic, two-day, limited camera operation costs approximately $300,000. The budget for the Australian Open? About $800,000. For potential sponsors looking to hitch their wagon to the golf caboose, the cost of the association is simply too high. It’s part of the reason why the professional game in Australia has trod water in recent times.
The internet has television in a sleeper hold, but it also offers a ray of light for golf in its ability to provide a lower cost broadcast alternative. At the 2015 NSW Open, Golf NSW chose to offer a no frills, live internet stream of the event over Saturday and Sunday. It involved coverage and commentary on two of the closing holes, with just four cameras. From a technical perspective, it was less than perfect, and for a viewer used to the style and gloss of network production, certain elements may have grated.
But in a world where professional golf is set to be marginalised further because of the cost of entry and real time coverage, the concept was a big step into the future at a fraction of the cost of traditional models. Its integration into a package that can be offered to corporations loitering on the perimeter of golf sponsorship may be what gets signatures on the dotted line.
With the growth of the game inexorably tied to the visibility gained from a healthy, dynamic professional tour, live streaming is a concept that needs to be given credit, and further explored.