Live disc golf coverage has changed the sport we know today. The excitement is palpable as we see our favorite players compete via live coverage throughout the season. However, this has not always been the case. Throughout the last few years, message boards have been filled with critiques of the Disc Golf Network (DGN) and their live production. People complained of poor quality in both the coverage as well as commentator arenas. The DGN is still in its infancy as it is only three years old, and it is refreshing to know that they care about this criticism and have done much to bring us a better product. For these answers and more, I interviewed Mahmoud Bahrani, the Media Director of the Disc Golf Pro Tour (DGPT) and lead producer for the DGN. Let’s take a look at the roots of the DGN.
The DGN started in 2020 as the broadcast wing of the DGPT. Steve Dodge was the founder of the DGPT and ran the company from 2016 to 2019. They focused on streaming live DGPT events. At that time, most of the disc golf coverage available was post-produced on YouTube. The DGN went through some growing pains in the early days of coverage and grew through the difficulties. In the early years, the DGN had three full-time employees (Mahmoud Bahrani, Sam Gaddes, and Evan Shper) as well as two part-time freelancers (Gary Obernberger and Jonathon Van Duerzen). Bahrani had this to say about the workload of those early days; “It was a very tight production, and I was, not exaggerating, working 7 am to 1 am most nights to prep and build assets to carry the broadcast before we had replay and a bunch of cameras. We only added Gary as a full-time replay operator at Jonesboro last year to put in perspective how fast everything has grown.”
In the very beginning, there were roughly 3K subscribers to DGN. That jumped to 10K by the end of the first year. They were broadcasting all of these tournaments with only four cameras on the ground for the first years. Four cameras for live coverage! Needless to say, everyone at the DGN was working hard to produce live coverage, and big changes were afoot.
The DGN experienced massive growth throughout COVID. In just two years, they grew from three employees to now having ten full-time employees (three full-time control room staff and seven full-time onsite camera staff). Their directors and graphics operators are all freelancers.
As a result, they now have seven cameras onsite to bring more coverage of multiple cards. They introduced live drone footage, which gives the broadcast an entirely new perspective (literally!). Their directors and graphics operators are all freelancers. As for subscribers, in just two years they went from 3K to a current number of over 33K.
While the DGN always strives to produce the best product they can, not all viewers have been happy with the content. Their first year of production saw some challenges, and disc golf message boards were lit up with negative feedback. Bahrani was candid when asked about how
he deals with this negativity. “It doesn’t feel good to scroll the comments on Reddit or on DGN and see that people are so upset with us. I promise to any viewers out there that we’re never purposefully
trying to do anything other than create the best possible coverage that we can. If that’s not enough for some people, that’s frustrating, but ultimately, there’s nothing we can do about it. I hate doing anything halfway – when I’m committed to something, I’m all in, and in this particular case, I’m committed to making the best possible disc golf coverage that I can. I hope people also know that we’re not doing anything maliciously. I don’t want to get rid of their favorite kind of media, and I want everyone to have the opportunity to consume disc golf however they want to consume disc golf. We’re just hoping to provide another option.”
One of the biggest beefs of message boards is that they want DGN to have a more polished, post-produced type feel. Bahrani said people will say, “’Be more like JoMez!’ “We’re never going to be ‘As good as Jomez’ if that means covering four specific players for post-production. We just have different goals with our products. Jomez is there to entertain. We’re definitely trying to entertain as well, but we’re also trying to give people a much wider view of the tournament and allow them to experience everything as it’s happening. Hopefully, if nothing else, we’ve convinced people that the live experience is different than the post-production experience.”
Bahrani is a huge fan of JoMez and their founder Jonathon Gomez. Of Gomez, Bahrani says, “He’s one of the brightest, most intelligent people in the sport.” DGN also collaborates with other post-production companies as they have Gatekeeper and GK Pro operate on-course cameras during live production.
Trends And Influences
Disc golf continues to grow at an exponential rate. This much we know. But where the sport goes in the future is anyone’s guess. However, the live product has become increasingly popular
and Bahrani sees it affecting the sport for the benefit of the fan experience. “I don’t think Worlds or any major tournament will be held in a spot that doesn’t allow live coverage to happen. It’s sort of expected now that the biggest tournaments are broadcasted like, and I don’t feel like that was the case many years ago,” said Bahrani. Understandably so. Many of the best players in the world have outgrown the classic courses of disc golf lore. I argue that it is more exciting to see players throw 500-foot shots than it is to see them throw technical putter lines that are hard to capture on camera. Technical courses certainly have their place, however, for major tournaments that are broadcasted live, the best product is brought to fans on more open courses. We will see this trend continue as the sport progresses into the future. Eagle’s Crossing is the newest private course and the first to put big money towards creating a disc golf course specifically to a course designer’s wishes. What a gift to players and
What The Future Holds
In only three years, the DGN has influenced disc golf in many ways, including the type of courses being played for major tournaments, catapulting young talent into the public eye, and collaboration between multiple media outlets. This has created a much more viewer-friendly
product that we all enjoy. The death of past live disc golf endeavors has been on the financial side of the equation. The DGN is working its way to financial sustainability. “2022 is our third season of operation and we are projecting that this will be the first year we break even with our operational budgets. All revenue created goes straight back into
supporting tour operations, event purses, or the development of our media operations. Our majority owner, Todd Rainwater, has committed to putting all profit back into the Tour for the foreseeable future.”
Live disc golf is in good hands. The DGN continues to grow with the sport and deliver quality entertainment to the people. When asked about the future plans of the DGN, Bahrani left me with this; “We just want to continue to provide awesome coverage of disc golf to people! I’m a huge sports fan and just love watching these players compete at the highest level. The more we can get folks to watch and be influenced in a positive way by disc golf, the better!”