09 August 2013

The U.S. Open is headed to Fox Sports

If you saw this one coming, I will buy you a house. Yes, Fox Sports has gotten quite aggressive over the past year and change as they are launching Fox Sports 1 in a week. But when it was announced that they won the television rights for the United States Golf Association, meaning the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Women's Open, the U.S. Senior Open and last but not least the U.S. Open, it was shocking. Not as shocking as what happened in 1993 of course, but considering that Fox has done very little golf, with only a pair of exhibitions in the mid-1990's under their belt, this was up there with one of the bigger sports media surprises in recent memory. So what is there to make of this move and what does it mean for golf and for Fox Sports?

For starters, this is just another example of Fox showing how aggressive they are to build up Fox Sports 1 to make it a legitimate contender to ESPN. Fox won the rights to the entire tournament, they won't share the U.S. Open like NBC does with ESPN. They have the rights to all four rounds and thus the action on Thursday and Friday will be on FS1. The U.S. Open is a big property and has to be considered the top tournament for Americans with the obvious exception of Augusta and thus it carries a strong audience. Now Fox Sports 1 has another big-time property to go together with MLB, NASCAR, college football and basketball as well as a little bit of UFC and even horse racing. That's a swell list.

As for why the USGA chose to go with a partner that has no experience covering golf, breaking down the choice is fascinating. After all, there is a little bit of precedence here as for changing partners to one more green than the prior one because NBC did not have a whole lot of golf coverage when they took the U.S. Open rights from ABC in 1993. That was considered to be a pretty shocking move as ABC had been a long-standing partner and expected to remain that way. NBC has been a great partner, but the USGA chose to follow the money (Fox is paying double for the rights per-year than the previous contract), they chose a partner that has a reputation of doing very well with younger folks, particularly in their primetime lineup, and they chose a partner that has never been afraid of shaking things up with their coverage, taking risks and bringing a whole new attitude.

The coverage begins with the 2015 tournament and thus Fox has to put together a broadcast crew, something that is easier said than done. Considering that NBC still has a good slate of coverage even after losing the U.S. Open, it will not be easier for Fox to do what it did when it took football from CBS and add Pat Summerall, John Madden, Terry Bradshaw, James Brown, Dick Stockton, Matt Millen, etc. And taking from CBS is not much of an option as the Tiffany Network has an excellent golf slate as well as the crown jewel. Taking some guys from ESPN like Paul Azinger or Curtis Strange or others as their coverage has been reduced to the first two rounds of the Masters and the Open Championship could happen, and Fox of course could find some guys either off the radar or playing right now. And one would expect to see some in-house guys like Joe Buck, Curt Menefee, or even a Gus Johnson to possibly be in the mix.

The bottom line is that we really do not know what to expect from Fox when we come to the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. And that is just the way Fox likes it.

1 comment:

  1. Who would be the announcers for this one?