Money blasts Open TV coverage out of bounds

FRED WOODCOCK IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014

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Officials are adamant live television coverage of New Zealand's flagship golf tournament is part of its future, but in the meantime fans must settle for a highlights package and live online streaming.

Prohibitive costs mean the New Zealand Open in Queenstown this week, like the women's open, will not be screened live on television.

It's understood the cost of having live coverage of the 72-hole PGA Tour of Australasia event is about $600,000 which, on top of $900,000 in prizemoney, organisers believe is not economically sustainable.

There will, however, be highlights and some live coverage streamed online, thanks to Ian Taylor's world class Dunedin-based sports graphics company, Animation Research Ltd, which is offering its services and technology.

Fans can watch a live one-hour hosted wrap show on the first two days, Thursday and Friday, which includes highlights, pre-recorded interviews and have a guest in studio.

On Saturday and Sunday, there will be live coverage and commentary from the 15th, 17th and 18th holes (one fixed camera per hole) from 3pm, along with Virtual Eye graphics.

Tournament director Michael Glading was "excited" by the recent development but they did not see online streaming as a substitute for live television, which "is still very much part of our future".

This is the first year the open has been leased by New Zealand Golf to Michael Hill Tournaments Limited, and Glading said their first priority was to ensure its economic viability and sustainability.

"Part of the reason the open has made massive losses in the past is the live television factor," he said yesterday.

"We realise TV is important and it's part of the future, but we can't do this year and achieve sustainability. We hope it will over time and we certainly explored costings this year."

The "commercial reality" of television in a country of four million people meant achieving financial viability was always going to be tough for most sports, particularly golf which is expensive to cover.

Glading said Taylor's company was "doing it for peanuts".

"He likes to use our tournaments to experiment with graphics and so on before taking them to the European Tour so we're excited about what he can offer."

Taylor is quick to point out that this will not be Ryder Cup or British Open coverage, which can have up to 100 cameras on site.

"While the streaming is on a smaller scale than international events, The Hills is one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, and the tournament spectacular - it deserves to be seen," Taylor said.

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* Stuff.co.nz will have comprehensive coverage of the New Zealand Open, for the first time being run concurrently with the NZ Pro-Am Championship, from Thursday.

- The Press

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