Monday, July 19, 2010

On Context And Content

I don't watch many golf tournaments, but I never miss the British Open.

On Friday, I was scanning through ESPN's coverage. It's impossible to just watch ESPN coverage, because there's quite a bit of waiting between the golf, actually. I was spending more time looking for golf than actually seeing any golf.

Roaming around with the remote, I saw that DirecTV was offering the "international feed" as well, which was the BBC feed.

I realized after about ten minutes that the BBC feed was the greatest coverage ever. No commercials, no interviews, just shot after shot after shot. Plus, the announcers were wonderful. Compare what happens after a bad shot:
American announcer--"One thousand random words."
British announcer--"That certainly wasn't what he was hoping for."

Quite the breath of fresh air, really, and no commercials, either, so it was couch potato heaven.

On Saturday, I decided to measure the difference (I tend to do that). So I taped the 12:00-12:30 CST coverage on both channels. In that thirty minute period, the BBC showed 52 actual golf shots.

How many did the U.S. of ESPN show? 35.

That's right. 50% more actual golf on the international feed, and commercial time accounted for less than half the difference.

Here's the difference in coverage. In the U.S., ESPN spent a huge amount of time trying to provide context and explain story lines. They did interviews. They made the screen look like a video game. The event itself wasn't considered interesting enough unless additional drama was provided by the coverage.

In a word, shitty.

The BBC feed, on the other hand, spent zero time providing context. If you don't know the context of the British Open, it's not their bloody problem. Interviews? None. Screen overlays? Sod off.

In a word, excellent.

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