CBS Reconfigured Golf for Covid19: Only 3 Announcers on Site

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 10: CBS announcers Nick Faldo (L) and Jim Nantz in the broadcast booth at the 18th green during the third round of the AT
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 10: CBS announcers Nick Faldo (L) and Jim Nantz in the broadcast booth at the 18th green during the third round of the AT /

CBS Sports now picks up the banner of producing live sports in the time of social distancing. For them it won’t be a one-time event. They are doing 11 golf tournaments in a row and making massive adjustments to get the job done.

Instead of all golf announcers being on site, CBS will have only Jim Nantz, Dottie Pepper and Trevor Immelman at the Charles Schwab Challenge. The rest of the announce team will be in Orlando.

Instead of packing production crews into one or two trucks on site, they are spreading people out all over the country.

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“We have more trucks,” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports, began. “In our main production unit, we would normally have 22 people. We now have nine.”  Those other 11 people have to be someplace else.

In this case, some will be on site and others will be remotely located in New York City or a mobile unit in Stamford, Connecticut.  Graphics and video replay will be done from Los Angeles.

The main reason the changes were made was to protect the health of the entire CBS Golf crew. But the accommodations for Covid19 have not stopped CBS from innovating.

According to McManus, they will have a new feature called Inside The Ropes to try to get a comment each round from each player. There will be a small tent with a camera and a boom microphone set up somewhere on the golf course.  There will be a question for each player to answer, if he wishes to do so. No one else will be in the tent. Social distancing, after all.

It is hoped that most players will answer the question, which may be different from player to player.  The answers can be used either in that day’s broadcast or in the next day’s or in a future telecast.

“The question might be something along the lines of ‘What have you missed about not playing on the PGA Tour in the last three months?’” McManus explained. “I think it’s a way to, hopefully, get every player making a comment.”

CBS is also working to get player permission to wear microphones during play.

“I think the players are beginning to realize that they can play a real role in making the product more interesting for the viewer at home,” McManus added.

It is likely that he is basing that on the level of interest during The Match II and the TaylorMade Driving Relief special events where players wore microphones. However, he does not believe that the majority of players will want to wear a microphone during play.  In fact, he believes that most won’t want to.

Microphones would not be two-way.  There would not be an opportunity for the announcers to talk directly to the players and vice versa the way Charles Barkley did on The Match II.

Neither microphone wearing nor question answering is mandatory for players.

McManus said the goal was to bring some of the qualities he saw with the NFL draft to the golf telecast to humanize it a bit more. He compared it to Commissioner Roger Goodell’s man cave.

“Seeing coaches and general managers in their homes with their kids or their family or their dogs is a lot more interesting than seeing them in a conference room,” McManus said. “I think that was part of the reason the draft got such incredibly good notices, because it was natural. It showed that these people are human beings.”

As far as talent, McManus, noted that Nantz is usually in  a tower at the 18th hole along with Sir Nick Faldo, as well as the camera operator, technicians and other people.  This week Nantz will be in the tower accompanied only by a robotic camera.

Faldo will be in the Golf Channel studios in Orlando, as will Ian Baker Finch and Frank Nobilo.  They will be connected by the producer, director, and a TV monitor view of the telecast. Pepper and Immelman will be on the ground, reporting from the site.

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McManus admitted he would like to be able to get a comment from a tournament co-leader coming down the 18th needing a birdie to win, like the TaylorMade Driving Relief telecast was able to do with Rory McIlroy, but he realizes that’s not going to happen.

The main reason the production changes have been made is to protect the health of the CBS Golf crew and the talent. CBS Golf is doing the first 11 weeks of golf without a break, and they will have two production crews that will alternate. The first crew will do the first two weeks and the next crew will step in for the second two weeks.  Announcers, so far as we know, will remain the same all 11 weeks. At this juncture, they have only planned out the first month.