MLBAM to power new PGA Tour live action online service

MLBAM's Bob Bowman (L) and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announce the new PGA Tour Live service at the WGC Match Play event. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for larger image)

MLBAM’s Bob Bowman (L) and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announce the new PGA Tour Live service at the WGC Match Play event. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any photo for larger image)

SAN FRANCISCO — Finally, golf fans will get a chance to see those early morning Thursday and Friday rounds that are never on broadcast TV, thanks to a new online live-action service announced Tuesday by the PGA Tour.

At a press conference held on the scene of this week’s World Golf Championships Match Play event at the Harding Park course, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the tour is partnering with Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media entity (MLBAM) to produce a service called PGA Tour Live that will bring live Thursday and Friday golf coverage to any digital device for a small fee.

“I think you can see the possibilities” for such a service, said Finchem, who jointly presided over a press conference announcing the service with Bob Bowman, president of business and media for Major League Baseball. Finchem noted that at several recent PGA events there were some early rounds that fans couldn’t watch since they happened before the scheduled broadcasts came on air. With PGA Tour Live, he said, fans will be able to use phones, tablets or laptops and desktops to watch live action via the Internet.

Masters champ Jordan Spieth gets in some practice shots at Harding Park Tuesday.

Masters champ Jordan Spieth gets in some practice shots at Harding Park Tuesday.

According to MLBAM and the PGA the service will eventually be available from more than 30 events per season, and will show two “featured groups” from each event, similar to how many of the bigger tournaments like the Masters currently use online outlets to show live action. The service (you can sign up to get notified about its launch) is expected to launch sometime later this summer.

When asked the key question — how much this would cost — Bowman replied that the price wasn’t yet set, but that he thought it would be in “single digits” per event, meaning less than $10.

“Great content is not free, but I think this should be in single digits,” said Bowman, looking across the podium at Finchem to see if the tour’s boss agreed. “Lower is better.”

Bowman said in an interview after the press conference that the PGA would handle the content capture part of the service, and then would send the content to MLBAM for coding and processing on the Internet. While MLBAM already makes hundreds of millions showing live baseball action online, there are some extra hurdles to jump over to get content out from golf courses, which typically don’t have as much installed infrastructure. But Bowman also noted that at major events like the WGC tourneys, having mobile equipment isn’t a problem.

“If you look around here, you’ll see something like 40 [equipment] trucks,” Bowman said. “These are major media events, and it won’t be a problem [getting video from the courses]. This isn’t your grandfather’s golf tournament anymore.”

Golf Channel scores with Ryder Cup digital broadcasts

Given the time differences between Scotland and the United States, making all the Ryder Cup coverage available live online or via a mobile app seemed like a smart move for the Golf Channel and its parent NBC. Now that the stats are in the numbers back up the move, with Golf Channel claiming record unique visitors and video starts for both its online and mobile-app platforms.

In a press release NBC Sports said Golf Channel Digital had “its best week ever across all digital metrics” during the Sept. 22-28 Ryder Cup week. According to NBC, for the week attracted 2.16 million unique visitors, a 325 percent increase from the Ryder Cup week in 2010 and a 75 percent increase from 2012, with 16.2 million page views. The website also recorded 1.3 million video starts, respective increases of 438 percent and 173 percent over 2010 and 2012.

On the mobile side the Golf Channel mobile app racked up more than 10.4 million page views, which according to NBC was a gain of 93 percent over usage from 2012. The mobile platform this year also had more than 267,000 video starts, which NBC said was up 81 percent over 2012.

Let’s hope the PGA takes the numbers to heart and increases mobile/digital coverage of all Tour events, especially during Thursday-Friday competition days when many golf fans are more likely to be in front of a PC than a TV. Golf Channel’s Ryder Cup numbers are just a sign that we’ll watch online or on mobile devices. Tee it up, PGA!

Watching Golf This Week: Phil’s Tax Advice, the Farmers Insurance Open and More Golf Online… if you have Comcast

Too bad Phil Mickelson’s such a nice guy — nobody can really stay mad at him for long, even if he makes Latrell Sprewell-type remarks about the money woes of a millionaire. Maybe you heard about Phil’s kinda tax-rant from this past weekend? Wednesday the guy everyone loves to love in golf rebounded with a press conference where he blamed himself for saying dumb things, tossed in a few jokes and everything was OK. But we know the golf media — just watch the next time Phil wins, there will be a lame lead about “his tax burden increasing.” You read it here first.

What else did you read here first about golf? How about our worldwide scoop from last summer, about how the PGA Tour was going to simulcast all its live TV coverage online this season? Well that story comes true this week with the official kickoff of expanded live online coverage of pro golf’s top tour… that is, if you are a Comcast cable subscriber.

Confused? So are we after reading and re-reading the PGA’s official announcement of its new live streaming feature. Safe to say, the PGA is moving in the direction of having all its live TV available online, but there are a lot of moving contractural parts that haven’t quite been sorted out yet. But hey! It’s moving in the right direction, of MORE GOLF ONLINE. Thank you PGA Tour.

To put it simply: Starting with CBS’s coverage this weekend, all weekend broadcast coverage this season from CBS and NBC should be available online; weekday coverage from Golf Channel is also available online right now IF you have a Comcast cable subscription — and later in the year for other broadband video providers. The lucky Comcast subscribers and others later will also be able to watch live video via mobile devices, through the NBC Sports Live Extra and Golf Live Extra apps. Your best bet if you have questions about where to find live online video is to check out every week until this all gets solved and is easy.

No word yet on the Majors but we expect those properties to bust out online extras like they did last year — and since we never got around to giving out our 2012 awards, let’s just say that the online golf coverage champ is still CBS and the Masters, with the U.S. Open and the PGA a close tie for second. (The British Open needs to step up its game, in our opinion.)

And golf this week? That guy Eldrick returns to his favored stomping grounds of Torrey Pines. Now that the Phil “controversy” is out of the way we can go back to the story of the forthcoming year, that of Tiger vs. Rory. And the anchoring ban! Let’s ignore that for now. The overworked golf media can only stand so many controversies at one time.


(all times Eastern)

Thursday, Jan. 24 — Golf Channel, 3 p.m. — 7 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 25 — Golf Channel, 3 p.m. — 7 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 26 — Golf Channel, 1 p.m. — 2:30 p.m.; CBS, 3 p.m. — 6 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 27 — Golf Channel, 1 p.m. — 2:30 p.m.; CBS, 3 p.m. — 6 p.m.


Thursday and Friday, Golf Channel coverage via and; Saturday and Sunday, CBS coverage at The PGA will also show live coverage of the 10th and 13th holes at Torrey Pines South at its Live@ page. You can also get live video via the PGA’s mobile apps, for tablets and smartphones. Cable contracts and wireless plans necessary. Right now only Comcast cable subscribers can watch live online video on weekdays.

SIRIUS XM (Satellite)
1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday-Friday and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The live broadcasts are also available to subscribers on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at

Here’s the Farmers Insurance Open Facebook page. Like it.


The Farmers Insurance Open Twitter feed. Beware of links to CEO speeches. You’ve been warned.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer. If you’re not following Geoff you are missing the online boat.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend.
Doug Ferguson is the lead golf writer for AP. Good Twitter insights that often aren’t part of your wire-service lead.

If you’ve never played, you should hit this bucket list course hard by the Pacific coast north of San Diego — one of the great classics that is open to public play. (And even at $229 a round, it’s a bargain.) And the scene of Tiger’s great 2008 U.S. Open win. Here is the Torrey Pines site, complete with its mystical music.

Brandt Snedeker. Remember him?