The PGA Tour is currently in the middle of what it calls an offseason. The next official event, the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, will also be the first one under the massive new rights agreement agreed to all the way back at the start of the pandemic in spring of 2020.
As part of that deal, digital rights for the PGA Tour Live streaming product went to ESPN+, which even at the time looked like a pretty big win for golf fans by virtue of simply being a part of the standard ESPN+ subscription, as opposed to an entirely standalone monthly product. Now, though, after two years of frustration with the NBC Sports Gold platform and a general sparseness of coverage, things seem even brighter for potential subscribers, as ESPN announced their production plans for the upcoming year.
Those plans include a fairly impressive expansion of coverage, both in terms of on-site production and the number of events included.
From ESPN’s announcement:
ESPN+ and PGA TOUR announced details for the inaugural season of PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+, with extended and expanded coverage that more than triples the total coverage – adding more than 3,200 new hours of live streaming available for a total of more than 4,300 exclusive hours. All PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ coverage will be available to ESPN+’s more than 17.1 million subscribers.
In 2022, PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ will include live coverage of 35 tournaments – from the TOUR’s Hawaii events in January all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs and into the fall – with at least 28 events having four full days of coverage and four simultaneous live feeds each day.
That’s a major increase, making it a value-add already for anyone who was a PGA Tour Live customer but not already an ESPN+ subscriber. And that’s before getting to the fact that you also, you know, get the rest of the content that comes along with being an ESPN+ customer. (I’m aware this sounds more like an ad for ESPN+ than I’m intending it to sound. It’s just that the previous iteration of PGA Tour Live was such a bad value and frustrating user experience that this move is objecively a huge improvement.)
As for the expanded coverage itself:
With the launch of PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ comes new streaming feeds that will bring expanded coverage of events totaling more than 4,300 exclusive hours. Beginning with The American Express (January 20-23, 2022), PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ will offer fans four live feeds for each tournament:
Main Feed: primary tournament-coverage featuring the best action from across the course;
Marquee Group: new “marquee group” showcasing every shot from each player in the group;
Featured Groups: traditional PGA TOUR LIVE coverage of two concurrent featured groups;
Featured Holes: a combination of par-3s and iconic or pivotal holes.
The weekly production crew behind PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ will increase from approximately 85 people to more than 210, with 16 cameras on the course, and a 15-person talent crew calling the action across the four channels. The expanded talent roster is still being finalized and will include current studio hosts John Swantek, Jonathan Coachman, Lisa Cornwell and Ned Michaels and on-course analysts Christina Kim, Karen Stupples, Mark Immelman, Chantel McCabe, Mark Wilson, Stuart Appleby and Michael Collins.
That’s a big addition to the original version’s staid featured groups/holes coverage; assuming it works in practice, being able to see play from across the tournament outside the usual coverage windows is another win for golf enthusiasts. A major complaint about golf coverage is just how little of it there is. These expanded channels won’t begin until after the Tour’s Hawaii swing (which is unfortunate but understandable given the costs of getting everything over there, though the fact that there’s any PGA Tour Live coverage from Hawaii at all is still an improvement) but based on the description this is a pretty seismic shift in the PGA Tour’s streaming coverage.
It’s about time.