Fox Sports took plenty of criticism for its inaugural U.S. Open golf coverage, both from inside and outside the company, and some of Fox’s executives don’t think that’s fair. John Entz, Fox Sports’ president of production and executive producer of their U.S. Open coverage, told Sports Business Journal the critics’ expectations were unrealistic:

“For someone like [The New York Times] to come in and say, ‘Here’s all the things that went wrong. You need to get better at this,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, really? You think? You thought we were going to be perfect on our first show, which happens to be the size of the Super Bowl?’ Being realistic would go a little way for people that are out looking for blood.

“The part of the criticism that does bother us a little bit is that we felt that people were going in looking for it, and over the course of that many hours of TV, they were going to find things that they didn’t like or things that went wrong.” 

Entz said any first telecast of that size comes with growing pains:

“We had 700 people working together for the first time,” Entz said. “As any rational person could imagine, there’s going to be some bumps in the road when that happens, especially when your first true show is a show that size. You’re going to have a steep learning curve.”

Those points are somewhat valid, but they also illustrate the challenges with how the golf landscape has shaped up. It’s highly unfortunate for viewers that those growing pains came during a tournament of the size and scope of the U.S. Open, rather than during a lower-profile event, but NBC and CBS have the PGA Tour’s rights locked up through 2021, meaning that Fox is largely kept to the sidelines apart from the U.S. Open. (They do have the U.S. Senior Open, and they already showed some improvement there this past weekend, and they have the U.S. Women’s Open, but not much else.) If they’re going to improve before next year’s U.S. Open, and there are plenty of ways they could do that, that improvement’s going to have to come either off-the-air entirely or at the few lower-profile events they do have.

From a broadcasting standpoint, the initial Fox U.S. Open had its good points as well as its problems, and that was true on the ratings side too. The event did well for Fox in early ratings, primetime ratings and overall ratings, but not so much in total final-round ratings. As with the ratings, perspectives on the criticism of Fox depend on what angle you come at it from; Entz and Fox executives feel they should have been given allowances for their rookie status, while many critics likely feel they should be held to the past standards of majors telecasts. Entz is quite right that there is context to the network’s Year One struggles, but his criticisms of the critics aren’t all fair either.

There weren’t many prominent critics out there saying that Fox’s early struggles meant they’d be terrible U.S. Open broadcasters going forward. Indeed, many of the critical pieces focused on improvements they can make. Moreover, giving Fox a free pass for their growing pains isn’t particularly fair to critics, or to viewers; early struggles are understandable, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored or deemed acceptable. Entz may not like the criticisms, and he’s well within his rights to weigh in on them, but his anti-criticism comments aren’t likely to have much of an impact. If Fox improves by next year’s U.S. Open, the reviews will be more positive. If they don’t, then Entz is likely going to have to deal with a further tide of criticism.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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