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The CBS Sports Network - Dynamic Discs Open Broadcast In Review

Paul McBeth smiles after a drama-filled conclusion to the 2020 DGPT Dynamic Discs Open. Photo: Bobby Brown | Dynamic Discs

Disc golf made its much-anticipated major sports network debut last week as CBS Sports Network featured the DGPT – Dynamic Discs Open for four consecutive nights in one of its most coveted primetime slots.

For a network that reaches 100 million households and regularly features high-profile programming like College Football, College Basketball, and the PGA Championship, to avail disc golf of such a platform— even if it was under the terms of a so-called “time buy”, as Ultiworld Disc’s Jack Trageser explained in his excellent overview—has been rightly viewed as confirmation that the sport has made significant headway into the cultural mainstream.

“CBS Sports […] normally airs what is known as ‘time-buy’ or ‘brokered’ programming—sports events that cannot yet garner enough funding through advertising alone to prove profitable,” Trageser wrote. “However, the network is still selective about what it decides to air, and a well-known CBS on-air personality may have helped tip the scales with his outspoken support of disc golf.”

That would be Adam Zucker, PDGA #25623, a long-time disc golf advocate who not only worked behind the scenes to secure the deal but also lent his considerable on-air talents, appearing in several spots throughout the broadcast. CBS execs seem to be aware of disc golf’s potential, as well, according to Trageser’s reporting; they included an option to cover more disc golf as part of the DDO deal and are said to have remarked on the surging growth in the sport.    

The Production

Ever since the project was announced in June, disc golf fans have been clamoring for a production that they were told would exceed even the already-high standards regularly set by JomezPro. It was clear early on Wednesday night that these high expectations would not only be met— they’d be crushed.

Viewers were treated to a slew of impressive new visuals including a revamped motion graphics suite, studio-produced player profiles, stunning aerial views, and the unmistakable look of professional-grade broadcast cameras that gave the production a polished feel. Regular subscribers of disc golf on YouTube may be forgiven for thinking that, with the CBS broadcast, they were getting a glimpse into the future.

And despite these trappings, or—more likely—because of them, the sport’s personality shown through brilliantly. Disc golf’s top players seized the opportunity to showcase their skills, producing a veritable bounty of highlight-reel shots, and the Emporia Country Club did its part by showing what a little wind can do to complicate a seemingly straightforward game.

New viewers were introduced to the two most recognizable faces in the game, as No.1-ranked Paul McBeth and Paige Pierce secured important, and—in McBeth’s case—dramatic victories. The five-time MPO world champion showed that neither the wind nor the CBS cameras could shake his confidence as he battled through a grueling 10 holes to finish the tournament.

Through it all, JomezPro was meticulous in following CBS’ directive to emphasize storylines and modify their typical presentation to suit an audience less familiar with the rules and terminology of the game. This was perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the choice to finish the four-night run with a high-stakes mixed doubles skins game that gave players a chance to show the fun, personable side of the sport.

"We heard from so many people that this was the highest production quality disc golf coverage that they have ever seen," Dynamic Discs Event Coordinator Doug Bjerkaas told us. "Knowing that our intended audience though was not the “in-the-know” disc golfer who follows the touring pros and the events that they play, we believe that Jomez hit it out of the park." 

And for a sport that has historically struggled to increase women’s participation, there could have been no better outcome than for Paige Pierce to emerge as the clear MVP of the mixed-division proceedings.

The Takeaway

If initial indicators tell us anything, it’s that CBS seems likely to exercise the “more disc golf please” option built into the DDO agreement; a revealing analysis by Parked: A Disc Golf Think Tank shows that while disc golf accounted for less than 10% of the tweets from @CBSSportsNet during the period of the DGPT-DDO broadcast, those tweets accounted for more than 75% of the channel’s total user engagement.

Regular disc golf fans—many of whom already knew the results from DDO, which took place in June—were less invested in the drama of the event’s outcome as they were in the reaction from viewers new to the sport.

"Our goal was to make people aware that disc golf did have an organized and professional avenue through which players could compete," Bjerkaas explained. "With all of the new players who have started playing this year, we wanted to create coverage that would make them say, 'Oh wow. Disc golf is a legitimate sport...I may want to take this more seriously.'”

In this respect, the project cannot be viewed as anything less than a success. But it also seems likely that this effort represents the beginning of disc golf’s transition from YouTube to network television, and not its end.

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