Coverage of Sony Open limited due to strike
A substitute crew of announcers working from the Golf Channel headquarters studio called the final round of the Sony Open due to a strike by video and audio production workers.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
The weather was so good at Waialae Country Club on Sunday, you could see the final round of the Sony Open in Hawaii from … Orlando, Fla.?
That’s where a substitute crew of announcers working from the Golf Channel headquarters studio called the play due to a strike by video and audio production workers from the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees at the course.
Barring a settlement, the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, a Champions Tour event scheduled to begin Thursday at Hualalai on the Big Island, could also be affected.
Nonunion employees, some of whom had previously worked in front of the camera, manned a reduced number of cameras for the nearly-five hour broadcast of an event-record sixth playoff hole before Patton Kizzire defeated James Hahn in fading sunlight.
Shots from three platforms and some hand-held cameras were augmented by aerials from a fixed-wing plane.
The only on-course broadcasting was done by Todd Lewis, who conducted post-round interviews.
Maui resident Mark Rolfing, who has been a staple of PGA and LPGA golf from Hawaii for more than 30 years, was to have been an on-course analyst but appeared only in a recorded segment.
Rolfing, along with analysts Frank Nobilo, Whit Watson and Curt Byrum, did not appear live due to reduced audio capabilities at the site.
Golfers and fans arriving at the Sony Open in Hawaii were greeted by pickets lining the entrance to Waialae.
A spokesman for IATSE said the strike was called amid negotiations that had remained stalled over a nine-month period.
Thursday’s opening round of the Sony Open drew 343,000 viewers, according to the entertainment website ShowBuzz Daily, and was projected to substantially raise that for the final day.
The strike came days after the PGA Tour and the Hawaii Tourism Authority announced a $2.1 million marketing agreement for the Sony Open and two other golf events that run through 2022. The HTA has estimated the broadcast media value of the Sony Open at $4.2 million.
The action also affected the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic and Diamond Resorts Invitational, but the latter is held in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., near the Golf Channel’s headquarters where additional personnel was available.
The PGA Tour made updated scoring available on its website, PGATour.com, the PGA Tour app and social media platforms.
John Culleeny, IATSE spokesman, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Golf Channel technicians who after nine months of negotiations and rejecting two contracts, the last one by 83 percent, and with a strike authorization pretty close to that, said we’re going to go on strike over the last offer. The company didn’t budge so we walked.”
“The main sticking point is the fact that our wages are not equal to what our regional rates are in the country and what other networks pay. They’re far below,” Culleeny said.
Culleeny said, “We had last been in talks on Saturday, didn’t go anywhere, so we decided to walk on Sunday.” He said, “They might have one or two people who run a camera, but quite frankly most of the cameras were sent back to the truck and packed up.”
“They went home, we’re on strike, we’re going home. They’re on planes or flying out (today). A couple of people were in Kona setting up, and they stopped working,” Culleeny said.
In a statement the PGA Tour said, “We apologize for the interruptions to today’s PGA Tour telecasts due to a labor dispute between the Golf Channel and its live tournament technicians union. We are working closely with our partners at the Golf Channel to provide as much television coverage as possible of the Sony Open in Hawaii.”
In a statement from its Orlando, Fla., headquarters, the Golf Channel said it has “been working on negotiating an agreement for 9 months with a union that represents our live tournament technicians. Those efforts have not yet yielded a resolution, and we look forward to reaching a mutually agreeable contract. However, some technicians have chosen to walk off the job (Sunday). We have contingency plans in place, and will continue to deliver coverage. Thank you to our viewers for their patience.”
The Golf Channel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its broadcast operations.
The Star-Advertiser’s Dave Reardon contributed to this report.