DIRECTV and ESPN are teaming up to provide four channels of enhanced television coverage of the US Open Championship. Of course, interactive golf coverage is nothing new, but DIRECTV is enhancing the coverage for the first time in the States with a multiscreen application which it has previously used successfully for other sports. It is even moving into covering video gaming as a live sport.

“This is the most in-depth golf coverage in TV history. Just by watching it, you will take at least two strokes off your game,” said an excited Eric Shanks, executive vice president of DIRECTV Entertainment.

Ben Pyne, president of Disney and ESPN networks affiliate sales and marketing, said that ESPN would continue to innovate with its interactive offerings. “ESPN is committed to growing interactive television across the industry, and our collaboration with DIRECTV on this US Open coverage is an exciting step in that direction.”

The additional channels available through the interactive service will include a featured group or featured holes. There will also be a mix of player interviews and a continually updated highlights loop.

Interestingly, the service will be promoted through an on-screen prompt that will invite viewers to press the red button on their remote to tune to the US Open Mix Channel. This is significant because it borrows the convention of ‘pressing red’ for interactive services that originated in Britain, which also pioneered multiscreen golf coverage.

Also of note, ESPN will promote the service through an onscreen caption, providing viewers without interactive receivers with information about the expanded coverage offered by DIRECTV.

The golf service expands the lineup of interactive sports coverage offered by DIRECTV, which includes Sunday Ticket football, major league baseball, basketball and Nascar motor sports.

Video games
DIRECTV is also treating video gaming as a sport, covering the Championship Gaming Series live on its 101 entertainment channel.

“We’re giving the CGS the same star treatment as NFL Sunday Ticket and all of our innovative sports programming — capturing all the competition, sideline interaction, and behind-the-scenes excitement,” said Eric Shanks, clearly equally excited by video games as golf.

“Broadcasting live and in HD will give goose bumps to every professional video game athlete in the country.” That’s right, no longer a passive television viewer, the casual couch fan is now elevated to a video game athlete. “And goose bumps look even better in HD,” he adds, somewhat improbably.

The high-definition coverage of the video games will include virtual cameras inside the games as well as the actual arenas. Following coverage of the US National Championship, CGS will host events in London, Dubai, Shanghai, Sydney and Singapore. The World Championship will be distributed to over 100 million homes with broadcasts on BSkyB, Star and DIRECTV.

The use of interactive television as a platform differentiation by DIRECTV emulates a strategy that has been successfully employed by Sky in the United Kingdom and other Sky satellite services. Creating a television sport out of virtual video games looks like an innovative approach to the rising cost of rights. Given the massive interest in video games, it could be a winner.