Category Archives: Golf

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USGA, CISCO Plan to Reimagine Golf Through Multi-Year Partnership

First, the U.S. Golf Association and Cisco will enhance the fan experience through an app. But then, over the next few years, the USGA plans to leverage its newly-minted partnership with the technology giant to reimagine golf innovation and enhance the experience for the players themselves. 
On Tuesday, the two organizations announced a multi-year deal to deliver new fan experiences, such as real-time scoring, mobile ticketing, and cashless payments, across the USGA’s suite of digital properties. The deal also ambitiously calls for the two to figure out how to improve the game itself, including the experience for golfers.
“Philosophically as an organization we recognize there are ways to use technology to lead golf into the future,” said Katie Bynum, USGA’s managing director of partnerships and fan experiences. “Our intent is we work with Cisco to help define what that may be.”
As the USGA’s reimagining of golf is only in its early stages, Bynum couldn’t elaborate on what the two might be cooking up in the future. But she did point to the organization’s last golf symposium in 2017, in which it announced a commitment to innovation and sustainability. The USGA issued a challenge statement to the industry in March 2017 in which it committed to improving golfer satisfaction by 20 percent and reducing critical resource consumption (mostly at facilities) by 25 percent, all by 2025.
“Part of that challenge statement is to help partners like Cisco evolve golfer satisfaction in the game so they stay playing and play more,”Bynum said. “We want to reduce resource consumption, thereby costing facilities less to maintain operations and, ultimately, reducing our environmental footprint.”
Bynum anticipates the USGA will begin to showcase some of the early findings of its partnership with Cisco at the USGA’s Golf Innovation Symposium in Tokyo next March. There, the USGA will begin highlighting its new STEM education programs, partly in an effort to lure new generations of fans and athletes to the game.

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In the near term, Cisco, as the USGA’s official technology partner, will help facilitate a more connected experience for fans at major championships, such as the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. That will include improving WiFi access at the event, creating new opportunities for content distribution on-site and worldwide, and strengthening the local network to enable greater access to real-time scoring, content, and other digital experiences through the US Open app.
“We see a tremendous opportunity to create a strong network that can ultimately enable a bunch of things for the fan that we haven’t been able to deliver,” Bynum said. “Ultimately, we hope to do things like digital ticketing, cashless payments and distribution of content in ways we haven’t done before.”
The USGA’s plans also include augmenting its broadcast studio at the USGA headquarters and creating “unique opportunities for fans to engage with the sport and its players.”


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Greg Norman Invests in Alternative Sports Commentary Provider Spalk

Spalk, a company that allows viewers to choose their preferred language, style, or even team bias for commentary, has announced a $1.5 million seed round. Former professional golfer Greg Norman and his business, the Greg Norman Company, led the investment. Stadia Ventures, Ice Angels, and Sparkbox ventures also contributed to the fundraising round according to a press release.
Commentators can call games remotely from a laptop anywhere in the world and Spalk’s proprietary Live Sync technology ensures lip-sync synchronization between their alternate audio and the livestream. Users can access the service using a plug-in.
A New York City-based company with New Zealand origins, Spalk was named the winner of “Greg Norman’s Search for the Next Sports Entrepreneur” held at the University of Miami in March 2017. Since launching last year, Spalk has covered over 5,000 live events with over 100 partners, spanning broadcasters, sports leagues, and OTT providers.

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“As the world becomes increasingly more global, a one-size fits all approach to sports broadcasting is no longer relevant,” Norman said in a Spalk press release. “Demographically targeted commentary is a win-win for both fans and broadcasters and Spalk is leading the way.”
Spalk’s broadcast commentary technology has been used by FIBA, World Rugby, and several Division I conferences in the NCAA. The press release states that the Greg Norman Company’s investment will help grow the company in North America and expand it into golf and other sports.
“By leveraging Spalk’s patented Virtual Commentary Studio, sports leagues and broadcasters no longer have to fly commentators to the stadium or studio to call games—they can do it from a laptop anywhere in the world,” said Ben Reynolds, CEO of Spalk, in the press release. “We place high value on the right strategic partners and are thrilled to announce the support from Greg Norman and our other investors.”
SportTechie Takeaway
Norman’s previous business ventures have indicated that the former player has an interest in technology that can disrupt the sports broadcasting experience for fans. Earlier this year, Norman partnered with the PGA Tour to equip his Shark Experience golf cars with PGA Tour Live streaming capability.
Last year, Spalk told SportTechie that it charges broadcasters $0.02 to $0.10 per viewer hour, based on the total number of viewers. FIBA used Spalk at the 2017 U19 World Basketball Championships. During that tournament, more than 90 commentators in five different languages covered games for six million basketball fans all around the world.


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