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Experts discuss the future of golf broadcasting

Speculating on the future of professional golf is a popular pastime these days, mainly because there are so many unknowns.

But the same could be true for the world of golf broadcasting. With the game’s stars split across two different tours and ratings plummeting at some tournaments, there’s plenty of reason to wonder what kind of changes may occur in the coming months and years.

On the latest episode of Peter Kostis and Gary McCord’s Off Their Rockers podcast, a GOLF production, Kostis and McCord tapped Brandt Packer, a 17-year Golf Channel/NBC production veteran, to get his take on the state of the industry.

“If you took over and had carte blanche, what would you do to get a golf match broadcast 20 years from now?” McCord asked. “Where do you think it would be then, if you had a crystal ball to look into?”

“I don’t think I can go that far,” Packer said. “I mean, I think it’s hard to think about what’s going to happen 20 days from now.”

Packer said the best way to understand what’s happening is to look at the current television landscape to get a sense of what networks are facing in terms of production costs.

“You guys had the last TV negotiations, right? And they went up, what, 60 percent through 2030?” Packer began. “I was part of Comcast during Covid, and I thought, as a viewer, what CBS did was tremendous in terms of what they had to do to keep it on the air. From Comcast’s perspective, they still paid us through all of that. I was part of the first one, because we took over the Fox gig at the USGA, so I was part of the first one in August. I did the US Am at Woodmont, and what had to happen to make that happen, you know, you had twice as many trucks because you had to stay six feet away. There’s only a certain amount of people that were allowed on the trucks. There were flights, the cost went up, hotels went up, rental cars went up, food went up.

“That inflation never went down, when Covid did its thing,” Packer continued. “Then you factor in that there’s a new TV deal now, which goes up 60 percent through 2030. And what you’re getting in terms of return on your investment, if you just think about it, you’re getting the same thing if you’re the networks, right? And I think that’s what these networks are going through right now, where they have to say, hey, our return on investment is, at best, the same. I mean, I could argue that it’s worse. You don’t know who’s in the fields. As you’ve said, you’ve lost the villains, you’ve lost the people that people really want to watch, and you’ve got to make your money back in a certain way.

What does the future of professional golf look like? Here are two creative ideas

By:

Josh Berhow



“If you take the current landscape, when I was last producing (and I imagine it’s the same), there were basically six commercials an hour. So in three hours, that’s an average of 18 commercials, and you have to shoot them and they’re 2.5 minutes each. So you have to put the commercials at the beginning or at the end, and no matter what you do, in the current golf Twitter landscape, everyone is going to complain about it.”

So what is the best way forward, given the network’s production obligations and viewers’ desire for uninterrupted action? It’s a difficult conundrum, but Packer believes it can be solved with an innovative restructuring.

“Going forward, there have to be creative ways to advertise this,” Packer said. “If the main complaint is about the ads, I think you have to look at it another way and say, well, how do we keep the sponsors intact and they get their big return on their investment? The networks still have to make money off of this.”

“When we did the USGA package for NBC outside of the US Open, when they stopped having advertising, Rolex invested a ton of money,” he continued. “So what I was doing was the same thing: the US Am or the US Women’s Am, we didn’t have advertising. Now, you had to do Rolex ads and you had to do things to make up for that. But I think the first thing you have to do is look at how the network can structure these broadcasts, doing the ads in a different way, because that, to me, is the number one complaint.”

Golf is unique in the world of live sports because the action continues even when the broadcast breaks for commercials, Packer said.

“The essence of broadcasting is golf shots,” he said. “It’s the only sporting event where you walk away from it and they keep playing. It never happens in football, it never happens in basketball, it never happens in baseball. There’s a stoppage of play. So I think you have to be creative and say, well, something’s got to give. The networks have to give a little bit. The tour has to give a little bit because the product, that would be the most important thing. And then everything else, to me, would be icing on the cake.”

For more from Packer, Kostis and McCord on the future of golf broadcasting, check out the full episode below.

Golf.com Editor

As a member of Columbia’s inaugural class of collegiate golfers for four years, Jessica can outdo everyone at the mast. She can also outdo them in the office, where she is primarily responsible for producing print and online articles and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Issue, which debuted in February 2018. Her original interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November 2015 and has appeared both in the magazine and in video format on GOLF.com.