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As The Players Championship Shifts to March, NBC Sports' Production Is Bigger Than Ever

16/03/2019

As The Players Championship Shifts to March, NBC Sports' Production Is Bigger Than Ever High-tech tools are deployed to provide unique perspectives on iconic holes By Jason Dachman, Chief Editor

Friday, March 15, 2019 - 2:35 pm

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NBC Sports Group's annual pilgrimage to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass arrives early this year, with The Players Championship shifting from May to March as part of the revamped 2019 golf calendar. The Peacock also has a new partner in covering golf's unofficial fifth major this week, collaborating with new Comcast-owned sibling Sky Sports to offer the most coverage ever from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. As is par for the course for NBC, the network has once again deployed a cavalcade of high-tech production tools to cover the par-3 17th hole's island green, providing fans with unique perspectives on one of the game's most iconic holes.

This camera tower position on the 18th tee is one of 60-plus cameras deployed by NBC at TPC Sawgrass

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is one of golf's most iconic and familiar venues for viewers, in particular the par-3 17th hole, says Ryan Soucy, VP, golf operations, NBC Sports Group. As a result, NBC Sports for years has employed a technologically advanced production at The Players in an effort to bring viewers as close to the action and excitement as possible. It has also become a great opportunity for us to introduce new technology elements that further enhance the overall viewing experience.

As Action Moves to March, Sky Sports Joins the Party

The Players' move to March has proved a positive one for NBC Sports' operations team, slotting The Players right in the middle of its seven-week run of PGA TOUR coverage.

It has been a wonderful transition back to March, when the event was originally staged until moving to May in 2007, says Soucy. We're in the midst of our exciting stretch of seven consecutive weeks of live PGA TOUR coverage on Golf Channel/NBC, with The Players in the middle. Our team enjoys the challenge that this stretch presents, and The Players in particular works well in March instead of as a standalone production for our NBC Sports team in May.

As in past years, Golf Channel's Golf Central Live From The Players set is located near 17th tee.

With Comcast having acquired Sky last year, The Players marks the most extensive production collaboration to date between NBC Sports and Sky Sports. NBC Sports' week-long coverage includes several collaborations with Sky Sports Golf, which has rebranded itself as Sky Sports: THE PLAYERS for the duration of the Championship. Sky Sports Golf is airing nearly 25 hours of live simulcast coverage of Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS, and the two organizations are sharing content across their respective digital platforms and social-media handles.

Our operational workflow remains the same, says Soucy. We are collaborating across our Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS news coverage, with coverage windows being simulcast on Sky Sports Golf, and vice versa. We're also utilizing analyst' swaps, with Golf Channel and Sky analysts appearing on the other's respective news coverage.

At 17: FlyCam, Cranes, and Dedicated Reverse Toptracer System

When it comes to The Players, it's all about the 17th hole.

NBC has deployed eight cameras covering to cover the iconic par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, including a FlyCam system.

NBC has deployed eight cameras to cover the par-3 hole, including a microscopic lens embedded in the lip of the tiny bunker fronting the green. A cable-suspended FlyCam system provides unique vantage points by flying over the body of water between the par-5 16th- and 17th-hole greens. A camera crane positioned 150 ft. in the air offers aerial views of Holes 16-18, and another on the island adjacent to the 17th green captures reactions of those playing No. 17.

Our use of FlyCam this year gives us greater flexibility to cover the entirety of the hole, says Soucy. We've added a dedicated Toptracer tee system on No. 17 as well and have the incoming reverse-Toptracer on the green.

Beyond 17: 60+ Cameras, Toptracer Across the Board

NBC Sports Group has rolled out more than 60 cameras to produce more than 150 hours of multiplatform live programming surrounding The Players, including 22 live hours of tournament coverage across Golf Channel and NBC. The camera complement includes 27 hard cameras, 14 handhelds, three RAT cameras, six wireless RF systems, three high-speed cameras, seven POVs, and a fixed-wing airplane for aerial shots.

NBC has Toptracer technology capability on all 18 holes at The Players Championship this year.

In addition, NBC has Toptracer technology capability on all 18 holes, including two RF Toptracer systems that can be used for fairway and second shots as well as on the driving range. Virtual Eye technology, provided by ARL Sports Graphics, also continues to play a big role in the coverage.

We have great partnerships with both Toptracer and ARL, notes Soucy. We're employing a lot more tracing equipment this week as compared to last year.NBC and Golf Channel live tournament coverage will be complemented by more than 60 hours of live news, analysis, and features within Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS and Morning Drive; nearly 45 hours of PGA TOUR Live coverage on NBC Sports Gold; and more than 20 live hours of The Players Launch Pad coverage on DirecTV.

Studio Shows On-Site: Golf Central Live, Morning Drive, PGA Tour Live, and Launch Pad

As in past years, the Golf Central Live From THE PLAYERS set is located to the golfer's left at the 17th tee. Twelve dedicated cameras capture the set, practice areas, media center, and designated player-interview area. Morning Drive is originating from TPC Sawgrass Thursday
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