Original Story (New York Times)
By RICHARD SANDOMIR
FEBRUARY 10, 2015
The PGA Tour hopes that a new digital network will help bring it younger fans — those who prefer short videos to televised tournaments and footage of golfers whooping it up when they’re not characters in hushed-voice network broadcasts. These millennial fans want to watch golf differently from earlier generations who were weaned on the feats of Arnie and Jack.
“We’ve had a healthy anxiety that we weren’t going to reach this generation with our traditional platforms,” said Rick Anderson, the tour’s executive vice president for global media. “If we’re not producing content and putting our sport out there on platforms in ways that they’ll consume it, are we going to miss them?”
To find them and keep them, the tour has begun a joint venture with Bedrocket, a digital entertainment company, to create an online network called Skratch TV. The deal will be announced Wednesday.
The goal of Skratch is “to be a storyteller in short, shareable ways,” said Brian Bedol, the founder and chief executive of Bedrocket. Videos focusing on golfers’ personalities and lifestyles and goings-on at tournaments away from the action will be posted on social media in hope of drawing people to the Skratch site, where they can see more.
The approach to recording video will include the use of modern production tools: GoPro cameras mounted on golfers at pro-ams and cameras mounted on drones.
A preview video posted on Facebook showed Billy Horschel, Rickie Fowler, Ben Crane and Keegan Bradley — whose average age is 30 — competing in the University Day Challenge last Friday at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. It is an example of what Skratch wants to show regularly. Accompanied by their college mascots, the golfers smashed shots into a series of panels to raise money for their alma maters.
One of the 114,000 people who viewed the video wrote, “I believe this is more fun to watch than real golf!!!” Another video followed the flight of the sky diver who delivered the winner’s trophy to Jason Day, who won the Farmers tournament.
Skratch will continue to post videos on social media platforms until its launch in a few months.
Bedrocket currently runs Network A, a digital network devoted to action sports, and it created Kick TV for Major League Soccer. Bedol was a founder of the Classic Sports Network, which is now ESPN Classic, and CSTV, now CBS Sports Network.
“Brian’s a guy you pay attention to,” Anderson said, “because he’s been right a lot of the time.”
No sport can afford to ignore the generation of young fans increasingly devoted to social media and whose viewing habits are rapidly shifting to watching what they want on smartphones and tablets. The PGA Tour appears to be more vulnerable to missing those fans than other sports.
According to a 2014 Doublebase survey by the media research company GfK MRI, only 20.2 percent of the tour’s television viewers are millennials — which the survey defined as people born between 1977 and 1994. That is the smallest share among the five organizations examined, which included the N.B.A., the N.F.L., Major League Baseball and Nascar. In addition, at 52.3, the mean age of tour viewers is the oldest.
Anderson disputed the notion that its network tournament broadcasts were stodgy but recognized that the tour had to diversify its strategy to appeal to younger fans.
“The way we present golf on television is fantastic for our core audience,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with our television product, but we’re not sure the millennials were going to watch.”
Steve Astephen, who oversees the action sports and Olympic division of Wasserman Media Group, said that some action sports stars, like the skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, liked golf, and some golfers, like Fowler, liked action sports. Astephen added that invigorating golf with short-form, lifestyle programming, which is common to action sports, could broaden its appeal.
“If we get more people viewing the game, if we grow the spectator base, and if they see they can enjoy golf and it’s accessible, it will grow the game,” he said.