SBJ/Jan. 6-12, 2014/In Depth

Golf Channel wants to build on viewership momentum

Coming off its third consecutive year of record-high viewership in 2013, Golf Channel executives say they are confident that a couple of schedule tweaks will help the channel set another record in 2014.

“You can drive yourself crazy watching ratings fluctuate day-in and day-out,” said Golf Channel President Mike McCarley. “When you look at it over the course of the last three years, Golf Channel is up 61 percent. That’s a trend that we see continuing. We’ve built a schedule [in 2014] that should rival another year of record growth.”

In 2014, Golf Channel is adding to its live event slate with the men’s NCAA golf championships. It will add the women’s event in 2015.

The channel also plans to bolster its Monday night slate by matching the show “In Play with Jimmy Roberts” with two of the channel’s popular series: “Feherty” and “Big Break.” Ratings for the Monday prime-time program block are up 42 percent from 2010, when NBC Sports Group took over management of the channel.

“There’s a rhythm to the golf season — everyone knows which month the majors play in,” McCarley said. “Similar to that, we’ve created a rhythm to our schedule. There’s a consistency to the Golf Channel’s schedule, as well, that’s made it easier for viewers to find the programs that they want to see.”

As with most sports networks, Golf Channel’s ratings are dependent on live events. The resurgence of Tiger Woods has helped the channel’s PGA Tour ratings increase by 81 percent over the past three years. Over that same time period, other live coverage has posted significant gains, including the LPGA Tour (up 46 percent), Web.com Tour (up 34 percent) and the European Tour (up 26 percent).

“Live events are the anchor,” McCarley said. “But you have to surround live events with compelling news and original programming if you’re really going to be successful.”

To that end, Golf Channel expanded “Morning Drive” to seven days a week. “Morning Drive” ratings are up 150 percent from 2010. Other studio shows have shown increases, including “Golf Central” (up 100 percent) and “Live From” (up 32 percent).

“We’re finding that golf fans know where to find us and know when to come for the shows that are important to them,” McCarley said. “But more and more of the casual golf fans are coming to us when there are big events and big stories breaking in the world of golf.”

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