Hot Mic: ESPN+, PGA Tour to triple streaming coverage in massive new expansion
Welcome to another edition of the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column dedicated to the people (and stories) behind the action you watch each week.
Golf fans will surely take issue with PGA Tour coverage in 2022. This is their birthright. The commercial load and number of shots aired are likely culprits. And goodness, don’t get them started on coverage gaps.
But viewers should prepare for a different type of coverage complaint in the new year. A complaint they’ve certainly never lodged before.
Is there such thing as too much golf?
On Monday, ESPN+ and the PGA Tour announced an enormous expansion of the tour’s digital product as part of its new streaming rights deal — a move that promises to change the complexion of how golf is consumed in 2022 and beyond.
The expansion will see the total number of coverage hours more than triple in 2022, expanding the Tour’s streaming product on a previously unthinkable scale. Under the new setup, ESPN+ will broadcast four live feeds for each tournament, adding three new feeds to expand upon PGA Tour Live’s previous “featured group” coverage.
Those three streams — a “main feed” mimicking a traditional tour broadcast, a “marquee group” feed that will cover every shot from each player in a group, and a “featured holes feed” — will help to bring week-in, week-out Tour coverage closer to that of the Masters, which has pioneered golf streaming for the better part of the last decade.
As part of the new deal, the broadcast’s production staff is expected to swell to more than two times its previous size, bringing in more than 200 staffers, up from 85 in 2021. This is in addition to the on-air team, which features John Swantek, Jonathan Coachmen, Lisa Cornwell and Ned Michaels as studio hosts and a stable of on-course reporters including Christina Kim, Karen Stupples, Mark Immelman, Chantel McCabe, Mark Wilson, Stuart Appleby and Michael Collins.
And the kicker? The product will come at a discounted price for golf fans. Gone is PGA Tour Live’s $9.99 monthly fee, in is ESPN+’s $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year cost — and of course, that comes with ESPN+’s full stable of programming, including thousands of live events and hundreds of original programming options.
“The start of the PGA Tour in 2022 will tee off a new and exciting opportunity for fans to watch the best golfers in the world,” ESPN’s president of programming and original entertainment Burke Magnus said in a release. “The new and expanded PGA Tour Live on ESPN+ is an incredible offering for golf fans – with more than three times the coverage from last season, while also bringing them access to thousands of other sporting events and original programming, all for $6.99 per month.”
In total, the new coverage will account for 3,200 hours of additional streaming for the 2022 season, bringing the total number of coverage hours from 1,100 to well over 4,300, according to ESPN. At least 28 of ESPN+’s 35 events will have four full days of coverage and four simultaneous live feeds each day.
But more than that, the new deal represents a space-age advancement for a PGA Tour product that’s fallen well short of consumers’ demands for years. The Tour’s biggest events will now have a comparable digital footprint to the major championships, and ESPN’s inclusion will help the Tour topple a major barrier to entry for fans.
It’s early to quantify what that means for the sport at large, but it’s hard to argue the shifts are anything short of monumental for the PGA Tour. Streaming is the next frontier — not only for golf, but for televised sports. With Monday’s announcement, the sport’s biggest player positioned itself for success … and its viewers for a ton of golf.
Let the complaints roll in.