SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/This Weeks Issue

LPGA making gains on TV, Internet in '01

The LPGA, 17 tournaments into its 2001 season, is seeing significant jumps in its television viewership and use of its Web site.

On the television side, numbers are up in all areas, said Julie Tyson, director of broadcast affairs for the LPGA. The most accurate reflection of that is in comparing the numbers for the State Farm LPGA Series, a 12-tournament series that airs on ESPN and ESPN2 and culminates in early September with the tour's State Farm Rail Classic, Tyson said.

In the first 13 telecasts of series tournaments this year, the LPGA has increased its household impressions by 44 percent from 265,000 for the same period last year to 381,000 this year.

As for ratings, the association has seen a slight jump in average cable ratings from a 0.3 to a 0.4 for series events this year.

Meanwhile, the LPGA's recently relaunched Web site also is seeing increased traffic. Page views for May are up 90 percent from May 2000 to 2.74 million, said Julie Miller, the LPGA's marketing development manager for interactive media.

Data also shows that visitors to lpga.com are having average session rates of about 12.5 minutes, she said. That figure, while high for the LPGA, is lower than the user times for other sports sites. According to data from Nielsen/NetRatings, pgatour.com users are posting average session times of 24.5 minutes, nba.com users are at 16.5 minutes and wnba.com users are on its site for 13.7 minutes.

"I'm not sure we have an exact science to why this is happening," said Karen Durkin, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the LPGA.

In fact, Durkin thinks multiple factors — the increased popularity of golf and women's sports, telecast and Web enhancements such as miking players and introducing interactive elements on its Web site, and outside factors such as the Senior PGA Tour's move from ESPN and ESPN2 to CNBC — are contributing to the association's recent multimedia success.

But the two biggest factors, according to Durkin, are "No. 1, the increased emphasis the LPGA has put on brand relevance and capturing more audience, and No. 2, Annika 'Mrs. 59' Sorenstam and her rivalry with Karrie [Webb]."

And as Sorenstam and Webb gear up to play in prime time with Tiger Woods and David Duval next month, Durkin hopes the association will see continued growth.

"We're not done with the year yet, but we're getting the sense that things are going to continue to be on the upswing as far as our media equities go," she said.

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