We all know that Augusta National and the Masters aren’t exactly open to change. Sometimes that is good, like with the low concession prices for fans able to get into the grounds. Sometimes it creates a controversy, such as Martha Burk’s crusade for women members. But, the new issue with the Masters keeping limited coverage on Masters.com makes little sense. Other than keeping with tradition — I didn’t know digital distribution of big-name golfers was keeping with tradition — the course and TV partner have the ability to air the entirety of the first and second round. Again, we know the Masters won’t listen to people on the outside so the only way to get a full TV airing would be if ESPN or corporate partners put pressure on the folks in charge at Augusta.
As of this post golfers such as Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Jason Day have already teed off. TV coverage doesn’t start for another hour. The Masters is the only marquee sporting event all day. People would watch on TV. ESPN is losing out on ad revenue whether it wants to admit it or not. Augusta lacks corporate signage — which is actually greatly appreciated by many fans of the game — but there are still five official partners with Mercedes, AT&T, IBM, Rolex, and UPS. Those companies are losing exposure.
Maybe Augusta is trying to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish, but the decision to not provide full coverage reeks of ‘because we’ve always done it this way’ rather than a smart business decision. We know they won’t bend to public pleas, so the next best thing is to hope ESPN and those sponsors pressure the club for more coverage.
Who does it hurt exactly? It’s not as if there are more people on the course. It’s exposing the game to new viewers, and it helps the players get more recognition. Until ESPN demands more coverage for what it paid for, and partners ask for greater exposure the Masters will stay limited/tape delayed on Thursday and Friday and that doesn’t seem to be beneficial for anyone.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.