Every now and again, news breaks that leads to a set of questions that need answers. We dig right into them in an occasional piece we call simply, FAQ.
With the USGA and FOX Sports announcing Wednesday -- on the eve of the 2013 PGA Championship, no less -- a new 12-year deal that will make FOX the network broadcast partner for the governing body beginning in 2015, there are a number of unanswered questions that will no doubt pique the interest of golf fans.
For starters, why on Earth did FOX go after this contract?
FOX Sports has never broadcast a major golf tournament. In fact, it's never broadcast a semi-major golf tournament. It has done golf in the past, but haphazardly and, frankly, in a poor way. So why decide 2015 is a good time to get into the game?
The answer's simple: FOX Sports 1, a new 24-hour sports network, launches Aug. 17. That's a lot of airtime to fill, and without rights to air sports, there's nothing but talk, old highlight shows and other worthless content. Live content brings eyeballs, and the U.S. Open is a big property. Meanwhile, the other Opens and USGA championships will be great content for FOX Sports 1 to boost.
On top of being a great time-fill (after all, the pace of play in golf these days is atrocious), golf audiences are thought to be very affluent, meaning FOX Sports can command good money for advertisers to land commercial time during USGA programming.
Why would the USGA pick FOX, given their track record?
That answer seems simple, but isn't quite that easy.
First, the USGA wants more attention for its championships. FOX's broadcast network is home to some big events: NASCAR, the NFL, Major League Baseball and the World Series, as well as the FIFA World Cup. FOX is big-time sports. FOX Sports 1 will be able to give even more devoted time to USGA events. Between airing the competition and studio shows dedicated to analyzing the action, FOX Sports will give more to the USGA than ESPN and NBC Sports do now.
However, what does that mean for the USGA relationship with the NBC Sports Group, primarily Golf Channel?
Well, probably not much.
Let's face it: Golf Channel has to cover the USGA. It's devoted to the game. Any kind of pull back from its current outstanding coverage of the U.S. Open would be seen as petty. It's coverage of the U.S. Women's Open and U.S. Senior Open isn't all that strong, meaning little will change.
This contract, however, will raise questions wondering if the USGA was off-put by the coverage given to them by Golf Channel. After all, Golf Channel airs the five major tours of the world. It will air the NCAA golf championships starting next year. Then there are studio shows and reality programming to buffer it all. There's little room for the USGA in the programming grid.
Golf Channel isn't hurt because it has a PGA Tour contract now extended through 2021, but it may hurt the NBC Sports Group in any potential effort to land the other major championships in the future.
Finally, who will call golf in the 18th hole tower for FOX?
That's the question that probably intrigues the most people.
Will Gus Johnson find himself calling another sport he never expected? Will it work out better than it has so far in soccer?
Maybe Joe Buck would anchor. He has a dry delivery, so it might work out just right. Also, he has no problem showing pretentious outrage.
Or, there's always Option C: an unknown anchor poached from another network or an undiscovered talent.
A bigger unknown is who the lead analyst will be. Someone like Paul Azinger would make sense. He has a FOX attitude (also a FOX News attitude, but that doesn't count). Maybe there are some defectors from ESPN's coverage. But don't expect someone with a steady weekend gig -- meaning the broadcast teams for NBC and CBS -- to jump ship for a light schedule.
Here's a sleeper name to consider: John Maginnes. He's a friend, yes, but he would be excellent given an opportunity to deliver his unique brand of commentary on a major network. Look for him.