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ESPN's Tony Reali "has re-upped his deal with the cable network -- and scored a regular gig" on ABC's "GMA," according to Michael O'Connell of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Reali joins "GMA" as its "first social media contributor and will appear in its recently unveiled 'Social Square' to engage viewers online." Reali will move from DC to N.Y. later this year. He will remain the host of ESPN's "Around the Horn," and the show will "get a new Times Square space close to his GMA studio." Reali said, "I love sports and I love ESPN, but there's a lot outside of sports that I like, too. Just the chance to have one foot in and one foot out is a dream." He added that ESPN and ABC are "still working out how often he'll appear" on "GMA" -- though he "anticipates two or three days a week." O'Connell notes Reali's move to N.Y. means that his involvement on ESPN's "PTI" will "be coming to an end." Prior to this, his broadcasting career had "consisted of covering sports exclusively" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/10).
Nobody "moves the needle in golf more than" Tiger Woods, and his absence from The Masters "could mean a ratings decline by as much as 20 percent depending on what happens Sunday," according to Ed Sherman of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. It is a "blow for the networks that they won't be able to ride" on Woods this week, although CBS publicly is "putting on a brave front." Avid golf fans will tune into The Masters, as it "always is the highest-rated golf tournament of the year." However, the network will "miss the ratings spike on the weekend that occurs when casual sports fans tune in to watch Woods." He has "produced the two largest final rounds ratings in Masters history." Even though Woods has not won a green jacket since '05, he "usually is in the hunt on Sunday, posting six top-four finishes in the last eight Masters." The potential number "would have been huge if Woods was on the verge of winning his first major" since '08 (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/9). In Akron, George Thomas noted even when Woods is "not in the hunt, he provides a bump depending on the situation, such as last year when Woods' alleged illegal drop in the second round caused controversy leading to higher third-round ratings" (OHIO.com, 4/8). In N.Y., Hank Gola writes ratings "obviously would spike if Woods was making a run," but that "doesn't mean they tank if he's not in contention" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/10).WEEKEND AUDIENCE TREND FOR THE MASTERS ON CBSYEARSATURDAYSUNDAY2-DAY AVG.TIGER WOODS'126.96.36.199t'12*5.08.06.840t'188.8.131.52t'106.710.79.04t'09*184.108.40.206t
CHART NOTE: * = Easter weekend.
PLENTY TO WATCH FOR: In Providence, Jim Donaldson wrote he could not believe ESPN in a poll on its website last week posed the question, "Will you still watch The Masters now that Tiger Woods has withdrawn?" Donaldson: "I don't know which result surprised me more -- that 18 percent of respondents said 'No,' they wouldn't watch if Tiger wasn't playing, or that 21 percent said they weren't going to watch it, anyway." Everyone who "appreciates watching the world's best golfers play on one of the world's greatest, most beautiful, most historic ... and most exciting courses will tune in, regardless of whether Tiger's teeing it up." Donaldson wrote, "Would The Masters be a better tournament -- a more interesting, intriguing, and entertaining tournament -- if Tiger were playing? Yes, absolutely. But does the fact he won't be playing for the first time since 1994 mean The Masters suddenly isn't a tournament worth watching? Don't be ridiculous" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 4/9).
The PGA Tour and LPGA are "now playing a pioneering role in the sports world's rush to embrace all things Twitter," according to Geoff Shackelford of GOLF WORLD. Network TV has "embraced tweets for something as simple as reminding viewers that a telecast has started, while also valuing the virtual water-cooler role Twitter plays in embellishing the viewing experience with analysis, humor or quick access to back stories." On-site tournament interaction is "the next area of growth." The PGA Tour "crushes the LPGA in followers (566,109 to 56,615), but the women's tour is innovating in ways that have gotten the attention of the sports world." With an emphasis on players "doing the messaging work in their own voice over the tour's official account, the LPGA has an array of well-coordinated initiatives." For example, the Friday before a tournament, the LPGA "sends out information to players on the upcoming week's sponsor, tournament initiatives and appropriate 'hashtags' that will turn up in Twitter searches." There are "Twitter takeovers" on Golf Channel telecasts where a player "answers fan questions while sitting in the broadcast booth." The LPGA most of all has "made sure that players' Twitter handles are on pairing sheets and caddie bibs." While all of the major golf bodies are "on the Twitter bandwagon, the Masters account's paltry number of tweets is conspicuous considering the club's propensity to break barriers in certain Internet categories." The club's "Twitter-lite stance will perhaps soften in 2014 and beyond, depending on how this year's tournament plays out on social media." But "considering Twitter's place in the sports pantheon, expect this year's Masters to be more talked about on Twitter than ever before" (GOLF WORLD, 4/14 issue).
FOLLOW THAT BIRD: Data from Octagon’s “Passion Shift” social media research initiative shows that 30% of 18-54 year old golf fans engage with Twitter while they watch golf on TV. Golf fans who engage with Twitter are more than three times more likely to buy a brand’s product as a result of sponsorship (compared to golf fans not on Twitter). Fans with lower handicaps are far more likely to engage with golf-related Twitter activity than golf fans with higher handicaps or golf fans that do not play. Meanwhile, data from SBJ/SBD research shows that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy lead all golfers in Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Rickie Fowler leads the way among golfers in terms of Instagram followers (THE DAILY).