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PGA TOUR launches a new solution that gives golf fans more personalised content experiences

Golf is unlike other sports, where there’s only one field of play. For fans watching professional tournaments, 18 holes with players at each hole means they can’t see all the action taking place at the same time.

But cameras capture what they miss: every course, cup, stroke and player over the rich history of the PGA TOUR. For decades, the TOUR has amassed large amounts of content on every player’s shot in any situation on the golf course during tournaments.

Traditionally, a small staff focused on broadcast and social operations for event telecasts has mined that video content and published highlights. But looking up, filtering and comparing key statistics and content in order to find interesting patterns that tell a compelling story to fans is time-consuming work that limited the clips they could produce.

Working alongside Microsoft, the PGA TOUR has evolved this process, utilising its scoring system, ShotLink powered by CDW, to help launch the PGA TOUR Content Relevancy Engine (CRE). Powered by Azure, this new solution helps the TOUR gain more insights into their vast library of competition content.

It’s just the latest development in the sport’s technological revolution.

Now, the staff has an automated solution to identify players and the shots they hit, and understand the context enough to create automated highlight clips stitched together from their day at a tournament.

“One of the goals we have on PGA TOUR LIVE is to show compelling information for every shot, and for every player for every tournament, we have more than 400 shots of content (six featured players in every PGA TOUR event, 72 strokes on average),” says Steve Evans, the TOUR’s senior vice president of information systems.

The new solution creates volume and is more efficient, which frees up our broadcast and social teams to focus on more creative stories.

– Steve Evans

For the TOUR, using CRE means being able to deliver the kind of information fans crave, quickly.

“What’s really exciting here is that if you’re in a highlight production business, you decide what’s compelling for fans. The problem with that is being limited by not understanding context. For instance, if we’ve got a young player the general fan hasn’t heard of, and we’ve captured 50 video clips of that player throughout the course of the tournament, none which would have probably merited a producer making the decision to say, hey that’s a highlight clip,” Evans says.

“But let’s say that player wins the tournament in some exciting fashion and it gathers a lot of attention and people are now interested in learning more about that player. The fact that we’ve automated all of the video highlights makes us immediately able to share those and make them available to the fans. These nuggets are compelling to provide context to the shot that they’re seeing.”

This intelligent solution powered by the Microsoft cloud carries the burden of finding patterns, giving production staff a filtered list of options so they can do what they do best: tell stories that engage more fans.

“Say a player has shot from a bunker to win a tournament, and it looks like they’re about to do it again,” says Evans. “Some producers might remember footage of that previous win or the great fan reaction that went with it, but there’s only so much a producer can keep in his head. This solution could send messages to a video producer in a broadcast truck, suggesting clips to play and other content that’s available.”

Or, as another example, a player might hit a fantastic shot to the green and eight minutes later he might make the putt for eagle. CRE’s automation edits those events together for a highlight clip.

In 2016, the PGA TOUR established a partnership with Microsoft as the Official Analytics Partner of the PGA TOUR. Using analytics services, machine learning and other services from Azure, the TOUR is now able to give fans relevant, personalised stories to provide a heightened understanding of situations as they occur.

And through the PGA TOUR LIVE online and mobile experiences (available by subscription), fans are now able to digest engaging content tailored to the players they follow, across multiple screens, beyond the broadcast.

Like the broadcast producers, they can make a decision on the content they want to see, related to the shots happening in front of them, tied to similar moments in the past.

From Evans’ perspective, to do an effective job across so many channels is hard to scale, unless you automate with tools like CRE. Ten years ago, he says, TV was the only medium fans consumed. Now, they’ve got smartphones, laptops, desktops and social media feeds.

“We really set out some lofty goals to create that automation and then we coupled that with really good technology and now we’re basically realising it and reinforcing that was the right direction,” Evans says. “Our goals as an organisation is to continue this kind of innovation for the foreseeable future because we can always make it better and do more. We’ve won the hearts and minds of a number of people who probably initially thought we were talking about things that couldn’t be done.”