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Buy-in from Monahan key to creation of PGA Tour, Netflix show

Rickie Fowler was the first pro to raise his hand to participate in the Netflix show and a small group quickly followedGETTY IMAGES

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan's enthusiasm "has been crucial" in getting the new show with Netflix that will debut next year to this point, as people familiar with the process were "impressed with his open-mindedness and that he became a crucial voice in bringing the project to market," according to Dylan Dethier of GOLF.com. Access "will be comprehensive." While camera crews will "likely focus on smaller numbers of players each week," the production team will have "complete rights to film at events and to use broadcast footage from competition." Filming will continue "through the end of the FedExCup Playoffs, wrapping with the Tour Championship at the end of August." Following the model of the F1-themed "Drive to Survive," the first episodes will "likely be released as hype builds" for the '23 Tour season. The Tour had been "intrigued by 'all-access' documentaries for several years," but “had not found the right combination of production partners, players, and a distribution partner until now.” The Tour and Vox Media Studios began "shopping the project around" in '19, and Netflix in summer '21 "greenlit production." Rickie Fowler was the "first pro to raise his hand" to participate, and a small group "quickly followed including Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Cameron Champ." The list of "big names missing" is "shorter than the roster of participants." The PGA Tour has historically "worked hard to curate and protect" players' images, but the Tour and showrunners both "insist they’ve taken a step back." A PGA Tour spokesperson said, “We do not have editorial control" (GOLF.com, 1/12).

ALL-ACCESS CRITICAL: THE ATHLETIC's Kellenberger & Deitsch wrote what is "most exciting about this project" is the "idea that the gatekeepers of the PGA Tour -- from the tour itself, but also the agents and various people who work for the golfers -- will not be able to restrict the content." They "do not have editorial control, for once, and are going to offer something we have not seen in a long time, if ever." All the elements of "good storytelling should be available to the producers." Golfers by nature have been "conservative with the media," so if the Tour can "play against that with an all-access series such as this one, it can definitely have the impact of boosting the popularity of the characters involved." Viewers will "probably know very early whether this doc will be a difference-maker or into the large bin of forgettable sports projects" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/12). Golf Channel’s Shane Bacon said the series will be a “deep dive with unprecedented access.” Golf Channel’s Eamon Lynch: “I’m going to be glued to it just like everyone else in this game” (“Golf Today,” Golf Channel, 1/12).

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While tech companies are consumed with finding ways to compete with TikTok, almost no one in conventional media “spends any time talking about it,” said Recode senior correspondent Peter Kafka in an Spotlight interview with SBJ’s John Ourand. “To me, that’s just an obvious disconnect.” Kafka authored a recent column headlined, “It’s TikTok’s world. Can TV live in it?” He said the main response to TikTok’s growth from traditional media execs has been to “punt and hope it’s someone else’s problem a quarter from now or two years from now.” But Kafka said that ignores the trend of conventional broadcast audiences growing older while a billion younger consumers spend most of their media time watching short video after short video. “If you’re in the business of getting anyone under the age of 30 to look at what you’re putting on a screen, you have to think about the fact that you’re probably asking them to put down TikTok and watch your thing instead,” said Kafka. “That’s a very difficult ask. … [TikTok] is insanely addictive.”

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