06/08/20: GOLF Channel’s Molly Solomon breaks down the network’s plans to resume play

 

Medias First Morning Read
Monday June 8, 2020

Professional golf resumes play this week with the Charles Schwab Challenge from Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas and GOLF Channel and CBS lined up to carry the action this weekend with coverage Thursday and Friday from 4-7p and Saturday & Sunday from 1-3p on Golf Channel with CBS picking up from 3-6p. The PGA TOUR’s three-month hiatus officially ends on Thursday on GOLF Channel, which will see network staple Golf Central return to its traditional live, in-studio setup starting today. Starting Thursday, Golf Central will utilize its standard live pre- and post-game shows surrounding live tournament coverage. Cynopsis Sports asked Molly Solomon, GOLF Channel executive producer, about what was going on behind-the-scenes when play was shut down and how the network will tackle this week’s return to form.

Solomon on the shut down: We had to quickly alter both our short and long-term programming strategies. One priority was honoring our partnerships with golf’s professional tours and tournament sponsors, despite the lack of new/live tournament programming. Our programming group also brought some creative ideas to the table, utilizing engaging content from our archives in an effort to fill the live tournament coverage void in some small way. For example, we resurrected the “Big Break” reality golf series, which was always a GOLF Channel fan favorite for years. It’s been so fun to watch the social media reaction and the “watch-alongs” on Twitter with former contestants.

Another priority was determining how we could continue to serve as the sport’s leading voice from a news standpoint while maintaining the safety of our employees working remotely from their homes. Our technology operations group established our first-ever “virtual control room,” which ultimately paved the way for GOLF Channel to produce new linear remote shows daily – Morning Drive and Golf Central. Tonight, Golf Central actually returns to its regular live window in-studio (6p) for the first time since March.

On audiences: Through the NFL Draft, The Last Dance and golf’s two charity competitions devoted to COVID-19 relief efforts, we all learned how desperate fans have been for new narratives in sports. Fans leaned in to new formats and innovation like mic’d players. GOLF Channel was able to launch “Tiger Slam” after Last Dance finished its run and served the documentary-hungry audience. We also found excellent engagement with our original content on GOLFPASS with “The Conor Moore Show” launching during this live-event hiatus. Conor is a gifted impressionist and a little levity lifted golf fans who watched.

On golf returning: With the right safety measures, golf is uniquely positioned to successfully follow social distancing guidelines. Golf hasn’t seen a full-field event since play was suspended at THE PLAYERS Championship in mid-March, and like NASCAR, IndyCar and other sports properties that are starting to resume, this week’s return of live golf will be a welcome sign for many.

On coverage plans: Coverage on GOLF Channel will be a true collaboration with CBS Sports. In accordance with the PGA TOUR’s recommended safety regulations, the on-site production presence in Fort Worth will carry a smaller footprint than usual. As a result, all four days of live tournament coverage will see some CBS Sports production personnel as well as on-air personalities originating from GOLF Channel’s headquarters in Orlando. It’s a testament to our partnerships with the PGA TOUR and CBS, and our collective excitement for showcasing the return of professional golf.

As far as the coverage itself, the tournament boasts a truly stellar field, with each of the top-five players in the world expected to tee it up, including World No. 1 Rory McIlroy. There are 101 PGA TOUR winners scheduled to be among the 148-player field, the most-ever for a PGA TOUR event outside of THE PLAYERS Championship. Golf Central also will complement live tournament coverage Thursday-Sunday with pre and post-round analysis and commentary.

On business lessons from the timeframe: The ability to adapt and be flexible in accounting for factors outside of your control. These past few months have necessitated new workflows and challenges that we’d never encountered before, and despite those barriers, we’ve continued to serve our viewers with content and perspective on the game they love. We can’t wait to get back to work!

PROGRAMMING

NBC Sports’ presentation of the NTT INDYCAR Series Genesys 300 on NBC in primetime on Saturday night ranked as the company’s most-watched INDYCAR race on record and the series’ most-watched race since 2016, excluding Indy 500s, according to Fast National data provided from Nielsen and Adobe Analytics. The season-opening race of the 2020 season averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 1.285 million viewers to rank as the most-watched non-Indy 500 INDYCAR race since the 2016 Dual at Detroit Race 2 on ABC. The race also delivered INDYCAR’s most-watched season-opener since 2016, with a 0.82 HH rating.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021 and the winner of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR will be announced during a special presentation of NASCAR America on Tuesday, June 16 at 5p on NBCSN. The program will be hosted by NBC Sports’ NASCAR studio team of Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty, Krista Voda and Nate Ryan. Three NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees will be selected from the list of nominees – two from the Modern Era ballot and one from the Pioneer ballot. Two of the modern era candidates are part of the NBC Sports NASCAR team: Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

NBC Sports announced that it will kick off live coverage of the Premier League’s return to action with a pair of matches on June 17 – the first of 36 days of live games in a 40-day stretch to conclude the 2019-20 season. Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, will also mark the debut of live sports on the platform with the Premier League’s return. The company said Peacock will stream all live matches currently available via NBC Sports Gold’s “Premier League Pass,” including seven games in the first three match weeks. In the first match of the resumed 2019-2020 Premier League season, Aston Villa hosts Sheffield United at 1p on NBCSN.

Meanwhile, Telemundo Deportes celebrates the return of Premier League’s 2019-20 season starting June 17 with Aston Villa/Sheffield United at 12:55 p.m. ET on the Telemundo Deportes app, followed by second-place Manchester City hosting Arsenal live at 3:15p on Universo and the Telemundo Deportes App. Exclusive, live Spanish-language coverage will continue to air across Telemundo, Universo and the Telemundo Deportes app featuring 36 days of live action in a 40-day stretch. PL is the third major club league to resume its season since Covid-19 shutdown.

ESPN will present three hours of special primetime programming from The Undefeated focusing on justice, equality and responsibility this evening at 8p. All three planned programs – including the debut of Playing for Justice, a 30-minute special that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the criminal justice system through the eyes of NBA players – were produced by The Undefeated. In addition, ESPN will present encore presentations of two past specials from The Undefeated – Dear Black Athlete and An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility and Violence.

MLB Network will provide more coverage than ever before of the 2020 MLB Draft presented by T-Mobile. For the first time in its history, MLB Network will televise every round of the draft out of MLB Network’s Studio 42, 21 and 3 in Secaucus. The channel will carry the first round and Competitive Balance Round A on Wednesday, beginning at 7p. At 5p on Thursday, MLB Network will televise the second round through the fifth round. MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger, Al Leiter, Dan O’Dowd, Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian, MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo, and Vanderbilt head baseball coach Tim Corbin will provide analysis and breakdowns throughout the coverage.

Vin Scully will be first in the lineup for MLB Network’s new series showcasing the greatest calls and moments from iconic Major League Baseball play-by-play broadcasters in its new original series The Sounds Of Baseball. The series is co-hosted by Bob Costas and Tom Verducci. Auring toight at 8p, the Scully episode running 52 years to the day that Scully called the Dodgers’ Don Drysdale breaking Walter Johnson’s consecutive scoreless innings streak in 1968.

Supercross reports viewership swells for its return to competition on NBC and NBCSN, as the sport averaged 412K total viewers across NBCSN and NBC. Supercross on NBCSN was the #1 program in May among men 25-54, with viewership up 127%.

Happening Tomorrow: Cynopsis Sports is thrilled to bring together a lineup of A-list speakers to break down our “new normal” world of sports media and dive into the ways audiences & brands will interact in the years to come. Join your peers as we glimpse the post-pandemic future of our industry for this VIRTUAL event: The Great Sports Disruption: Preparing for Success in a Post-COVID World, hosted by Jeff Eisenband. Learn more and register here.

Packer and Durham, ACC Network’s morning news and information show, returns to a daily, two-hour format beginning today. The morning show hosted by Mark Packer and Wes Durham that has been on hiatus since March 16, will air live each morning from 8-10a.

The W Series, the all-female motor-racing championship, announced that the circuit will push all competition to 2021 as a result of pandemic complications. The W Series’ eight-race 2020 season had been slated to begin in St Petersburg, Russia on May 30 and conclude in Mexico City on October 31.

***TOMORROW***
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June 9th | 1PM – 5PM

Join your peers for this VIRTUAL event and hear from sports media insiders from: Pac-12, SeventySix Capital, Learfield IMG College, NBC Sports Group, NASCAR, S&P Global, FOX Sports, Athletes Unlimited, New Balance, USOC, Walk Swiftly Productions and more.

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

Justin Rose and his wife Kate are reportedly sponsoring a series of women’s pro golf tournaments for British professionals starting June 18. According to Sky Sports, the series will feature seven events on the Rose Ladies Series including a tournament at Royal St George’s Golf Club. Each tournament will be played over one day with the exception of the final, which takes place over the final two days of July at a venue TBD.

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

The Philadelphia 76ers inked an agreement with FOX Bet to present game replays within seconds of real-time through the 76ers’ official Twitter handle. FOX Bet also becomes the Presenting Partner of the team’s official radio broadcast for all regular-season games on 97.5 The Fanatic.

Meanwhile, DraftKings entered a deal to enter the Michigan sports betting market via Bay Mills Resort & Casino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Through a commitment to provide customers with a premier sports betting experience, DraftKings is happy to partner with Bay Mills Resort & Casino,” DraftKings Chief Business Officer Ezra Kucharz said in a release. “The Great Lakes State presents a number of gaming opportunities and we look forward to collaborating with Bay Mills to provide residents with the best-in-class experience DraftKings is known for.”

ESPORTS

Cloud9 is tapping Guinevere Capital for a strategic partnership designed to beef up the operational capacity of OWL squad the London Spitfire across the United Kingdom and Europe. Guinevere received logistical control of the commercial and marketing aspects of the organization as well as facilitating expected live home stand events in 2021, according to an announcement. The company will also create regular weekly content for fans.

The Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) signed on as title sponsor of the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, running June 13-14. The virtual race will feature the world’s best drivers from both motorsport and esports compete with 50 cars split between two categories (LMP and GTE) racing over 24 hours. “Saudi Arabia has a longstanding association with motorsport and Le Mans and our connection to the sport has been strengthened recently by hosting global events like Formula E and Dakar in the Kingdom,” said SAFEIS President His Royal Highness Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Al Saud.

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a recorded statement that the league was wrong for not listening to players who were fighting for racial equality, adding that he encouraged them to peacefully protest for the cause. The move came a day after 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and other NFL players also released a video demanding that the league take a stand to condemn racism. ”It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country,” Goodell said in the video released Friday. ”First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families who have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much needed change in this country.” He goes on to say that “Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

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