Friday, April 1, 2011

The Masters Tournament releases a companion iPad app featuring extra programming; early release offers the developers time to fix bugs before the first player tees off

For some the first sign of spring is Opening Day of the baseball season; for others it is the start of The Masters, the first of the four "majors" in golf. Played at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, the beautifully landscaped course, combined with the gentle weather means spring for many Americans, even if the temperature outside where they live is barely above 40.
The tournament itself is unique in that it is very tightly managed by the tournament organizers. The television broadcast by CBS, for instance, contains minimal commercial interruptions -- only four minutes per hour. And, of course, it is the only "major" played on the same course every year. As a result, viewers have a fondness and familiarity for the tournament missing from other majors.
With this level of tight control, it is not surprising that The Masters would release its own iPad app for the tournament and include features over and above simple scorecard and highlight videos.

The Masters Tournament iPad app costs only $1.99 and offers tons of added programming, though users will have to wait until the actual event, of course, to begin to enjoy that content.
The main event begins on Thursday, April 7, but the app will allow users to watch live streams of the players practicing starting on Monday, as well as the traditional Wednesday Par 3 Contest.

Then when the actual tournament begins, iPad owners will have access to the CBS simulcast plus addition live video from famous men Corner (holes 11, 12, and 13), as well as holes 15 and 16.

The app launched a day or so ago, well in advance of the tournament, and that was a really good idea. Already an updated app has appeared, and still there appear to be video problems with the app. Buyers can probably expect at least one more update before the tournament begins.

It would be malpractice on my part not to mention that this app seems to continue the trend of the tournament and country club of whitewashing its history. The included timeline fails to bother mentioning the tournament's practice of not including African-American players all the way up until 1975 when Lee Elder was finally allowed to play, or the fact that the first African-American member of August was not allowed in until 1990. This isn't the place to recount this history or to recount the racial attitudes of the founders of the club and tournament. Nonetheless, I felt very uncomfortable using the app when it seemed so obvious that certain things were missing from the app's Timeline (you can read more about the tournament, the country club and its founders, including Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts elsewhere online).

This app is, in the end, very much a marketing vehicle that is intended to promote the annual tournament which brings in millions for Augusta National Golf Club. Better to look at it this way, rather than as a true media app.