Anyone who was – or trying to – follow the USPGA Championship last month would have found that it was not being shown on Sky Sports, as it usually is.
For why this was the case, head over to our previous article about Eleven sports buying the rights and streaming it online rather than showing it through a traditional TV broadcaster.
For obvious reasons, this was met with a lot of negative controversy, with many being so used to throwing on the TV to watch these events now having to sign up online and watch it on a laptop or iPad being a real inconvenience. It certainly wasn’t ideal, and unless you were super prepared with your HDMI cable you may have just settled for BBC updates. A desperate shame, seeing as the Sunday was, in my opinion, one of the greatest days in Golf Major history, with Brooks Koepka playing invincible golf with The GOAT back from the dead chasing down right to the end, shooting an inspired, and totally ridiculous 64.
To add to these woes, Eleven sports is a paid service, so had Sunday not fallen within the 7-day free trial, it would have been an extra cost too.
So the expected reaction would be to cite this as an outrage and let’s return everything to its usual state. Well, not so fast.
Whilst granted, it’s a bit annoying to change habits and be expected to pay another additional cost, I think that on the whole, the shift could be a very exciting one, not just for golf fans but all sports fans.
Anyone who watched the Eleven Sports coverage will have noticed that it was different from your standard Sky coverage. Whilst in places it was a little bit scratchy and less well-polished, which can only be expected from a very first attempt at it, there was something about the coverage that felt more intense, more exciting. Younger, non-golf specialist on-course presenters seemed a breath of fresh air, trying to get under the skin of the players, in comparison from your older, Golf-fanatical commentators who are often obsessing over rules, lies and swings.
In terms of logistically watching a streamed service rather than one through a TV box, I think this is a minor issue seeing as with the rise of Smart TVs and more and more instances of sport being watched via an internet connection, I see this only being a real problem for the late adopters who are unwilling to change their viewing habits, and will get better and easier with time.
The most exciting prospect from all of this though, is the opportunity that comes with decentralising all coverage away from just a small few broadcasting channels, who have a very set-in-stone, traditional experience they want to give their viewers, with less opportunity for drastic change and innovation.
With a new, disruptive player in Eleven Sports, brings new, fresh perspectives and new ideas about how sport can be enjoyed at its best. On the ‘about’ section of the Eleven sports website, the company cites its mission to “enhance the viewing experience, bringing fans closer to the action” which is an exciting purpose to have – for this I can only give kudos for being bold enough to try.
It will be interesting to see their strategy going forward. Will they be more bullish in Golf to try and corner a niche such that a golf lover will almost have to get a subscription? Perhaps even more exciting, could there be an opportunity for the platform to begin creating their own, unrestricted content tailored to fans, as we have seen Netflix do in the Tv Entertainment space? What about a new format event independent from the highly restrictive and traditional European and PGA golf tours?
You can only ask the question.
I look forward to seeing what the future holds with Golf coverage, and if we can be patient, there could be exciting times to come.
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