Do you know who may be the most powerful and shrewd people in the world of sports? The men who serve on the Masters Television Committee. Somehow, these guys convince TV networks to broadcast their event is a way that has become unprecedented in the world of sports and media. There is nothing left that looks, sounds or feels like a broadcast from Augusta National. It's like taking a step into a time machine when what was on the TV mattered more than what could be promoted by the TV.
Take for instance the 57-minutes of golf you get per hour--with just three minutes of commercials. Augusta National brings its own TV sponsors to CBS. CBS doesn't go out shopping the Masters to potential advertisers. AT&T, IBM and Mercedes-Benz are promised one minute ads every hour. That's it. And how nice is it to have ads that don't try to cure your erectile dysfuntion, fix that bloating and gassy feeling, or use political correctness to make you think drinking a soda will fix all of our social ills. There are no local ads with guys yelling about used cars either.
And during those 57-minutes without commercials, you only see golfers and the Augusta National course. They are the stars of this show. There are no cutaways to fans in goofy hats. Women with low-cut shirts don't get on camera. The stars of the new CBS Thursday night comedy don't "amazingly" have chairs set up along the ropes on 18 like they are huge golf fans. Verne Lundquist doesn't tell us about this week's plot on "NCIS". CBS doesn't even promote any of its other shows or even next week's golf tournament at Hilton Head.
Jim Nantz doesn't go to the "Verizon Scoreboard" to check on the leaders. We don't toss it to Greg Gumbel for "AT&T At the Turn" with five analysts trying to talk over the top of each other. Peter Kostis doesn't break down anyone's swing with the Konica Minolta BizHub Swingvision Camera. There is no Shot Tracer to track drives, nor any AimLine or flowing arrows telling us how the putt is going to break. We don't get updates on scores from other sports at the Franklin-Templeton Sports Desk. In fact, CBS doesn't show scores from any other sports across the bottom of the screen in a constant "crawl". About once an hour you get a full field run down there--but that is it.
And how do the folks at Augusta National get CBS and ESPN to get rid of all the distractions, the dog and pony stuff and sponsors name on everything? They offer just one year contracts to broadcast the event. When you give a network a five or a ten year deal to televise your event and something happens in year one that you don't like, you are likely to forget about that when it comes negotiation time years down the road. But when you can threaten to take away broadcast rights to a highly-rated event like the Masters at any time, you tend to get things done the way you want them done--every year.
I would never expect the NFL, Major League Baseball or the NBA to go to a Masters-style broadcast deal. Those folks are in the business of making money--while Augusta National is in the business of maintaining public perception that it is the most-perfect place in the world. But it's nice to have those four days every year when we fans can tune in to watch sports--and actually get to watch just sports.