CBS celebrates 60th year of broadcasting Masters
When CBS televised its first Masters in 1956, the network used seven cameras and covered action from the final four holes.
When the CBS cameras roll at Augusta this weekend for the 60th consecutive year, considerably more personnel and technology will be in place. CBS will offer nine hours of live coverage this weekend, and it can show action from all 18 holes.
The partnership between the Masters and CBS is unique, and the year’s first major is the longest-running sports event broadcast on one network.
“It’s really unlike anything in sports,” said Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports. “We have a great heritage and a great tradition with a lot of events we cover. But there is something unique and different with the relationship we have with Augusta National and the event itself. It’s hard to put into words.”
Even though the PGA Tour season now starts in the fall, and events are held on the West Coast, Florida and Texas the first three months of the year, there is a certain anticipation with the Masters. It’s the biggest tournament of the year, and for many it signals the start of spring and good weather. CBS isn’t shy about showcasing the course’s beauty and its abundant and colorful plant life.
“There’s no event like it,” McManus said. “We try to capture that for people who haven’t been lucky enough to go there. And I think sometimes people get the impression we’re overstating the beauty of the place, but we’re really not. I get a lot of comments from people who have been there who say, ‘Now I get it.’ ”
With limited commercial interruption, innovations and a veteran broadcast crew, it’s easy to see why the Masters consistently draws the highest ratings of any golf tournament.
Under the direction of longtime CBS producer Frank Chirkinian, the Masters telecast flourished in the 1960s and was known for breaking ground. The Masters was the first golf tournament to be shown in color, and it was the first to have an overseas broadcast.
Chirkinian, who died in 2011, ran a tight ship, but he also knew a story when he saw it. It’s no coincidence that Arnold Palmer’s rise and an increase in the popularity of golf were simultaneous.
“He was standing there next to his caddie, hitching his trousers, wrinkling his nose, flipping a cigarette to the ground,” Chirkinian told The Augusta Chronicle in 2004. “He hitched his trousers again and grabbed a club from his caddie. And he hits it on the green.
“I thought, ‘Holy mackerel, who is this guy?’ He absolutely fired up the screen. It was quite obvious this was the star. We followed him all the way.”
For years Augusta National resisted showing all 18 holes, and for decades the front nine was rarely shown on television. Those holes gradually began to be televised, and 18-hole coverage was offered for the final round in 2002.
CBS host Jim Nantz, who will celebrate his 30th year of covering the Masters, said this is his favorite time of the year. He just finished the NCAA basketball tournament, another CBS staple.
“It’s a big number, 60. I daresay there’s never been any television show that is as important to the CBS network as the Masters,” Nantz said. “Some might say 60 Minutes. Let’s include it in the discussion, 60 Masters and 60 Minutes. Those shows have reflected more about the brand known as CBS than anything else. It’s so special to see today.”
Even Masters and Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne honored the network during his annual news conference Wednesday.
“We specifically congratulate and celebrate CBS for their long-term commitment to the Masters, as this year marks their 60th consecutive Masters broadcast,” Payne said.
ON CBS TODAY
• 1-1:30 p.m.: The Masters: Substance of Style CBS, WRDW-TV (Ch. 12)
• 1:30-2 p.m.: Driven: The Keys to Augusta, CBS, WRDW-TV (Ch. 12)
• 2-3 p.m.: The Masters: When They Were Young, CBS, WRDW-TV (Ch. 12)
• 3-7 p.m.: Third Round, CBS, WRDW-TV (Ch. 12)