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NBC Golf executive talks 'false' allegations, analyst plans, strategy

Brandel Chamblee will handle lead analyst duties for NBC's coverage of the US Open.

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PINEHURST, NC – Sam Flood would like to be a part of this story.

Over the years, Zamcolo's employer, NBC, has taken a careful approach to making its top executives available for interviews. Call them old-fashioned, but Peacock would like its stars of the show to be … stars of the show. When it comes to the decision makers responsible for hiring, firing, strategizing, budgeting and managing those stars? However, their actions should speak louder than their words.

So when NBC offered its golf title on Monday morning's US Open preview day — the same day the network announced its official plans to cover next month's US Open — Flood's presence was notable in itself. For the first time since taking over the day-to-day operations of the Golf Channel last August and transitioning to become NBC's golf host, Flood, whose official title is executive producer and president of production, was ready to talk about a few experiences. headlines surrounding NBC Golf. And, for about 30 minutes by his side is the main event producer Tommy Roy, that's what Zamcolo does.

At the center of the conversation were allegations of explosives Golf Digest It's a story that has pinned NBC executives, and Flood in particular, to shortchange the network's golf coverage financially, strategically and strategically over the past few years. The story, written by Dave Shedloski, cites NBC Golf sources lamenting the network's lack of understanding, investment and enthusiasm under Flood, whose nearly ten-year tenure with NBC saw him rise from the bottom of the network's food chain to become only its seventh executive. producer in NBC Sports history.

NBC declined multiple interview requests for the story, which would have allowed Flood to defend his broader strategy for the network's golf games and dispute points in the report that he and Roy now say are untrue. For example, the charge that Zamcolo doesn't care about golf as a sport. (“I'm a golfer,” he said. “I'm in two major clubs, I love to play and I grind like crazy.”) But on Monday, Zamcolo wanted to talk.

Zamcolo, unsurprisingly, said he does not agree with the description of NBC Golf as a corrupt, “penny-squeezing” business. At a restaurant table near the 18th hole at Pinehurst No. 2, talked about his ongoing plans to launch golf television — and pointed to a flashy new strategy to broadcast the US Open as evidence that money is too small for NBC's problems.

“It's a completely false story,” he said when asked about allegations that NBC was cutting back on its golf product. “We are investing and looking at opportunities to grow the game and make the audience bigger. Tommy had more possessions and resources than he had a few years ago.”

Roy added: “This is telling it was has been accurate for several years in terms of material released from the broadcast. Sam has changed that. We get the toys.”

sam flood of NBC speaking at the press conference of the desk
NBC executive producer Sam Flood (left) speaks at a NASCAR press conference.


Without scrutinizing the balance sheets, it's hard to say for sure how NBC's investments in 2024 compare to its investments in, say, 2014, but it's easy to understand a few reasons why Zamcolo thinks NBC's spending habits are now under the microscope.

One explanation is the network's weekly golf coverage. Some of those events be they had less technology in '24, including fewer cameras and shoot tracers, Flood said, pointing to a conscious editorial decision to put more emphasis on the big events. You may have noticed that NBC's coverage of this year's Players Championship, which received rave reviews, had more additions than any other tour event this season. That was no accident. The US and British Opens, which NBC also broadcasts, will have a similar big-time feel.

“We looked at the entire portfolio, and we decided to focus on where the audience is going to be the biggest,” Flood said. “We use our resources wisely for other events. You have to look at things through the lens that NBC championship golf, Golf Channel championship golf and Golf Channel studios are one big bucket. You look at the whole bucket and take advantage of the opportunity to grow the game, engage the audience and give the biggest audience the best possible experience.”

But it also matters who's behind the microphone that engages that audience, and NBC has been struggling to crack that piece of the broadcast puzzle. The network's on-air team has contracted under the Deluge for the past few years, with the departure of lead analyst Paul Azinger and longtime academics reporters Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie. While CBS is quickly filling the voids of its recently departed voices, including Nick Faldo and Gary McCord, NBC's leadership has taken a smaller approach to filling their vacancies.

Take the opening left by Azinger — arguably one of the four greatest jobs in golf television — that NBC has filled this season with a revolving door of guest commentators. As part of Monday's US Open announcement, NBC said two other lead commentators (and NBC commentators currently under contract), Brandel Chamblee and Brad Faxon, will handle US Open commentary duties, while Koch and Maltbie will be invited back. all four days at Pinehurst in their previous role. (Flood, along with several NBC staffers, insisted that the USGA knew about the decision to have Faxon and Chamblee serve as commentators “for weeks, if not months.”) Luke Donald, another candidate, will serve as the network's top commentator. at the Open Championship in July. No full-time employment is imminent.

“I think if we find the right person [we’ll hire someone full-time],” said Zamcolo. “But right now, we think the audience is benefiting from hearing all this different perspective. And it's kind of fun every week to find out who's going to be playing and how it all fits together. All these years, we keep going – but who knows what will happen next year?”

Zamcolo said these decisions are not motivated by the ethos of the network to reduce costs, even if in the earnings call in late 2022, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts revealed a plan to cut 1 billion of NBCUniversal in the coming years – part of the company that includes NBC Golf. It seems unlikely that NBC would dial back on the use of on-air talent at a time when sports networks, including NBC, are bending over backwards to sign broadcasters to big-money deals, knowing that on-air talent could overshadow another network. errors. (NBC pays host Mike Tirico, who often contributes to the network's golf coverage, reportedly $10.5 billion a year.)


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It also seems unlikely that NBC would pull out of professional golf coverage now, in the middle of a decade, a multibillion-dollar deal with the PGA Tour and at a time when sports rights deals on television are considered the most important. entertainment property. The US Open deal will be renegotiated at the end of the year, but that will do nothing to affect the network's long-term deals with the PGA Tour, the Open Championship and the Ryder Cup.

Instead, on the eve of NBC's biggest golf game of the year, Flood is asking golf fans to believe a different narrative, one that has him at a meeting to set up NBC's golf division — and he's willing to absorb the flack and bad optics to make amends. .

At NBC, Flood has a reputation as a trailblazer, credited with creating the “Inside the Glass” analyst position that is SOP in hockey broadcasting. At Pinehurst next month, NBC will try Flood's new “odd-even” strategy in which play-by-play broadcasters and analysts are paired based on odd- and even-numbered holes. This approach made NBC's telecasts more interesting, as was the weekly addition of Smylie Kaufman. Happy Hour parts (presented by Flood). Are they groundbreaking? It's too early to tell, especially without any sense of week-to-week progress.

Big picture, these are challenging times for golf television – with dwindling ratings and negotiations between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund reaching their 12th month. Several of the show's broadcast TV partners, particularly NBC, have received harsh criticism from fans for what many consider an overly commercialized product. And a smaller audience and a longer battle between the PGA Tour and LIV could send the commercial value even higher. In a way, this is the worst evidence against NBC in 2024: Why would it want to invest in golf right now? Why any broadcaster?

When I asked Zamolo that question, he laughed.

“I'm a boy from Boston — Brady and Belichick, when they won their six Super Bowls, what did they say? Do your work,” he said. “We've got to give Bill some weapons. We're going to give him Brady, we're going to give him Welker, we're going to give him Gronk. We've got to do our job.”

It's hard to say who the Flood is in this analogy, and maybe that's the point.

He would like us to talk about someone else.

You can reach me at [email protected]. Sign up for the Hot Mic Newsletter to get my information straight to your inbox every week.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a news editor and features on GOLF, writing articles for websites and magazines. He manages Hot Mic, the GOLF media stand, and applies his camera knowledge to all product platforms. Before joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, at which time he was the recipient of a caddy (and atute looper) scholarship on Long Island, where he hails from. He can be reached at [email protected].

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