Fox Sports brings edge to US Open, upsetting traditional fans

U.S. Open frontrunners

Fox Sports is airing one of golf's biggest events—the U.S. Open—for the first time, bringing a high-tech edge to the broadcast that it hopes will boost interest in the event. But traditionalists aren't happy. (Tweet This)

Fox Sports, which signed a 12-year deal worth approximately $1.2 billion to broadcast the competition, began its coverage of the four-day event on Thursday and has incorporated the use of drones, a ball tracer and a hole highlight feature, John Entz, executive producer and president of production at Fox Sports, told CNBC.

"Sometimes it's hard to see where the hole is at, [and] that's why we highlight the hole," Entz said, adding the network has also been playing around with the greens' shadings in order to better define the slopes.

But some purists are unhappy with the network's innovations, lighting up the Twittersphere with complaints about everything from camera angles to problems with the leaderboard.




"Golf has a traditional audience ... who may not be as flexible on their viewing habits," Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports, told CNBC.

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Entz noted that, generally speaking, social media criticism seems to always be skewed toward negativity. But the network has taken into account some constructive feedback at the same time, he added.

Fox Sports has a long history of incorporating new technology into its coverage. In the 1990s, it used technology to track the puck during NHL hockey game broadcasts, before doing away with that idea.

The network is likely to eventually refine its coverage of the event, David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute, told CNBC.

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"I think there will be a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking about what went wrong," Carter said. "What you need to understand is that broadcast in any sport has been refined over time."

"Based on their track record, the quality of the production they have attached [to their broadcasts] will lead them to reaching new fans who are used to video games up against the old guard, which is very content watching golf on TV as they have for generations," Carter said.

Golf has struggled to gain younger viewers and to attract young people to the links in recent years. Equipment sales are falling, and more courses are closing in the United States now than are opening. Last year, athletic retailer Dick's Sporting Goods dropped the PGA pros who consulted customers inside stores.

[Disclosure: CNBC is a sister network to the Golf Channel, which has a heavy interest in the sport.]

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the timing of Fox Sports incorporating the highlighting of the first-down marker in its football broadcasts.