Tuesday, April 9, 2013

History of the Masters golf tournament on TV (1956-present)

The Masters golf tournament has been a longtime spring staple on the sports TV calendar. The Augusta National Golf Club and network partner CBS have a unique relationship. CBS operates on one-year contracts and pays far less than market value for the rights. In return, Augusta National insists on approval of all announcers and dictates terms of the coverage (no mention of prize money, plenty of references to "patrons" and "second cut", no promotions for other TV programs, etc.). From the beginning, the tournament has been presented with minimal commercial interruption (just 4 minutes per hour).

Augusta National has always limited the amount of coverage by its TV partners. While it has allowed the number of TV hours to increase in recent years, it still lags significantly behind the other golf majors in this area.

Here is a look at how the coverage has evolved over time beginning with the first televised Masters in 1956. All listings of hours refer to scheduled TV coverage. Note: For detailed TV schedules and announcers by year, see my complete research on Masters TV history over at 506sports (free registration required to view).

<EDITED on 4/18/2019 to bring this up to date as of the 2019 tournament>  

Chronology of Masters TV coverage

1956 - CBS provided a half hour of coverage on Friday with one hour each on Saturday and Sunday. Chris Schenkel and Bud Palmer manned the microphones. CBS only covered holes 15-18 with all of its cameras stationary and most of them pointed at the greens.

1957 - Jim McKay became the lead announcer.

1958 - CBS expanded its Sunday coverage to 1.5 hours and eliminated the Friday coverage.

1959 - Frank Chirkinian produced his first Masters. CBS added cameras to cover more fairways and tees.

1961 - The tournament concluded on Monday due to weekend rain and CBS added an hour of Monday late afternoon coverage.

1962 - Schenkel resumed the lead broadcast role as McKay had moved to ABC. The Masters had an 18-hole playoff on Monday and CBS provided one hour of coverage.

1965 - Jack Whitaker took over the lead announcer role.

1966 - The Masters was televised in color for the first time. An 18-hole playoff was needed and CBS televised the end of it on Monday afternoon. This was the year that Whitaker made an on-air comment referring to the gallery surrounding the 18th green as a "mob". For this, he was banned from the telecasts by Augusta National chairman Clifford Roberts for the next several years. Henry Longhurst called his first Masters for CBS.

1967 - A strike by the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA) impacted the coverage. With the regular CBS golf broadcasters honoring the strike, some CBS management personnel handled the telecast along with two top amateur players who were Augusta members.

1968 - Pat Summerall broadcast the Masters for the first time and anchored the coverage at hole 18. Frank Glieber also made his Masters TV debut.

Ray Scott joined the CBS telecast crew. So did Frank Gifford who worked golf for CBS for a few years before moving to ABC.

1970 - Scott took over as the 18th hole announcer. The final 18-hole playoff took place this year and CBS added late Monday afternoon coverage for that.

1973 - CBS expanded to 2 hours on Sunday. CBS added late afternoon coverage on Monday after rain necessitated a Monday finish. Ben Wright joined the CBS crew for the first time.

1974 - This was the last year that Scott served as lead announcer.

1975 - Vin Scully worked his first Masters and assumed the 18th tower announcer role.

1977 - CBS expanded to 2 hours on Saturday.

1980 - CBS increased the Sunday coverage to 2.5 hours.

1982 - This year saw a major change as the USA Network provided Thursday and Friday coverage (2 hours live each day along with a prime time replay). This was the first ever cable coverage for one of the golf majors. The USA coverage used the CBS production crews and CBS announcers.

1983 - Summerall took over the 18th hole tower role as Scully had moved to NBC. Verne Lundquist made his debut on the Masters. So did Brent Musburger who was stationed in Butler Cabin for the first of 6 consecutive years. CBS increased the Saturday coverage to 2.5 hours and Sunday to 3 hours. Due to rain, the tournament did not finish on Sunday, so CBS added late afternoon Monday coverage.

1986 Gary McCord and Jim Nantz joined the CBS crew. Bob Carpenter hosted the USA coverage.

1988 - CBS shifted the Sunday TV window to end at 7 pm ET where it remains to this day.

1990 - Bill Macatee hosted the USA coverage and would do so for all subsequent years that USA had the TV rights.

1994 - McCord made the infamous on-air "bikini wax" reference while describing the speed of the Augusta greens and remarked that mounds behind the 17th green resembled "body bags". These comments did not go over well with Augusta officials and despite still being a member of the CBS golf team, McCord has not worked the Masters since. That was also the last Masters tournament (and final CBS assignment of any kind) for Summerall who moved to Fox.

1995 - USA expanded the Thursday/Friday coverage to 2.5 hours each day. Nantz took over the lead announcer role.

1996 - Chirkinian produced the CBS telecast for the final time.

1997David Feherty called his first Masters on CBS as did Peter Oosterhuis.

2000Dick Enberg started a 7-year run of hosting the Masters from Butler Cabin. The Masters was televised live in HDTV for the first time.

2002 - Another major milestone took place this year as CBS increased the Sunday coverage to 4.5 hours and showed the leaders for all 18 holes. CBS had wanted to do this for a number of years, but tournament officials had always denied these requests in the past. This was also the last Masters in the TV booth for longtime lead analyst Ken Venturi.

2003Lanny Wadkins became the lead analyst and CBS expanded the Saturday coverage to 3.5 hours ending at 7 pm ET. The SD and HD productions of the event were unified. In the wake of the controversy over the Martha Burk protest regarding Augusta membership practices, the Masters chose to drop its sponsors. Both CBS and USA televised the event commercial-free. The same was true in 2004.

2005 - USA increased the Thursday/Friday coverage to 3 hours.

2006 - CBS added a one-hour special Jim Nantz Remembers Augusta which led into the Sunday coverage. That show looked back on the 1986 Masters using original CBS footage. This series has become an annual Masters Sunday tradition featuring vintage CBS telecast clips being rebroadcast for the first time.

2007Nick Faldo took over as CBS lead analyst joining Nantz in the 18th hole tower.

2008 - ESPN took over the Thursday/Friday coverage with Mike Tirico anchoring the action.

2009 - ESPN increased the Thursday/Friday coverage to 3.5 hours each day. CBS expanded the Sunday coverage to 5 hours.

2011 - ESPN expanded the Thursday/Friday coverage to 4.5 hours each day.

2013 - CBS increased the Saturday coverage to 4 hours. For both of the weekend rounds, CBS Sports Network aired a same-day prime time replay of the CBS network coverage.

2016 - Dottie Pepper became the first female TV announcer on the Masters.

2017 - Scott Van Pelt took over as the anchor for the ESPN coverage.

2019 - Due to a forecast for late afternoon storms, the Masters moved the Sunday tee times to the morning and sent the players out in threesomes. CBS televised the final round live starting at 9 am ET and re-aired much of that coverage at 3 pm.

Total scheduled live TV time for the Masters by year

1956-1972: 2.5 hours
1973-1976: 3.5 hours
1977-1979: 4 hours
1980-1981: 4.5 hours
1982:           8.5 hours (4 on USA, 4.5 on CBS)
1983-1994: 9.5 hours (4 on USA, 5.5 on CBS)
1995-1996: 10.5 hours (5 on USA, 5.5 on CBS)
1997-2001: 11 hours (5 on USA, 6 on CBS)
2002:           12.5 hours (5 on USA, 7.5 on CBS)
2003-2004: 13 hours (5 on USA, 8 on CBS)
2005-2007: 14 hours (6 on USA, 8 on CBS)
2008:           14 hours (6 on ESPN, 8 on CBS)
2009-2010: 15.5 hours (7 on ESPN, 8.5 on CBS)
2011-2012: 17.5 hours (9 on ESPN, 8.5 on CBS)
2013-2019: 18 hours (9 on ESPN, 9 on CBS)


  1. Hopefully, CBS's next deal with The Masters will be a long-term one (no more one-year contracts!), and will make it the exclusive telecaster of the Masters, with live coverage on all four days and a total of 23 and-a-half hours of coverage, as follows:

    * Thursday: 1-6 P.M. EDT and a half-hour wrap-up at 11:30 P.M. EDT/PDT.

    * Friday: 1-6 P.M. EDT and a half-hour warp-up in prime-time.

    * Saturday: 1-7 P.M. EDT.

    * Sunday: 1-7:30 P.M. EDT (in order to present an extended Butler Cabin ceremony, and a complete wrap-up). "^0 Minutes" that week could expand to 90 minutes, from 7:30 to 9 P.M. EDT.

    This way, the Masters will finally get the amount of TV airtime it deserves.

    1. I made a typo; obviously, extending Masters TV on Sunday to 7:30 P.M. EDT would be for a complete wrap-up, and "60 Minutes" could be expanded to 90 minutes to air from 7:30 to 9 P.M. EDT, right after the Masters in the Eastern half of the country.

    2. Jofus, I agree, but I think that's how Augusta National exerts its control over how the CBS and ESPN telecasts look--holding the one-year contracts over them. It's one of the reasons there are fewer commercials, I suspect.

  2. Do you happen to have the Jim Nantz "Remembers the 1986 Masters with Jack Nicklaus", and if so could I possibly get a copy of this. I really wanted to see this badly and just missed it. I have quite a few older tournament telecasts and would be willing to trade. Keeping my fingers crossed!! THANKS, CHRIS

  3. In 2019, CBS shifted the Sunday broadcast window for The Masters to start at 9 AM EDT due to an ominous weather forecast for the Augusta, Georgia area resulting in morning tee times with threesomes off split tees for the final round.

  4. Not a commentary on the TV coverage, but the tournament itself. Each year seemingly, Augusta National lengthens holes, or tricks up the course in an attempt to preserve par. That has NEVER been the lure of The Masters. It is imperative that they preserve not par, but the ability of the course to allow that back nine charge on Sunday afternoon. THAT is the drawing card for TV viewers of The Masters. We already have one US Open, where the greatest players in the world struggle to make par. We don't need another one of those. That back nine Sunday charge, and the fact that it is the only Major that has a permanent home, are what makes The Masters both unique and the most enjoyable of all major tournaments to watch.