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Volume 21 No. 30
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PGA Tour viewership numbers tumble across all network partners

PGA Tour TV viewership took another plunge during the 2013-14 season, with average weekend numbers declining 18 percent on NBC and 14 percent on CBS.

The drops followed sharp declines the previous year as well. The 2013-14 season was the tour’s first with the new wraparound schedule.

CBS averaged 2.089 million viewers for weekend coverage of its 20 tour events, which is two tournaments more than the network had during the 2013 season. NBC’s 10 events averaged 2.355 million viewers. Despite the drops, the tour remains fully sponsored for next season, which is important because title sponsors account for the majority of advertising on the broadcasts.

Sponsorship and the tour’s plethora of young and emerging players give CBS’s Sean McManus optimism for the tour’s future. CBS and NBC have media deals with the tour that run through 2021.

“Year-over-year ratings are going to fluctuate, but it’s important to remember that sponsor underpinning and interest is as strong as it’s ever been,” said McManus, chairman of CBS Sports. “Ratings are significant, but we’re not worried about any long-term trends. We feel the future is still very bright.”

Golf Channel’s live PGA Tour coverage was down on the weekends 9 percent. Officials from the network said Golf Channel will finish with its second-most-watched year in its history, despite the declines.

Tour officials emphasized that they focus more on the cumulative audience, or the total number of people who watched across all of the tour’s live broadcasts and replays on Golf Channel. The tour’s cumulative audience remained strong in 2013-14, according to Ty Votaw, the tour’s chief marketing officer. Those tour broadcasts were down just 1 percent against the 2013 season.

“We have a lot of total TV hours, probably more hours of competition than most sports,” Votaw said.

A four-year snapshot shows that the tour’s cumulative audience in 2011 reached 175.9 million viewers; 171.2 million in 2012; 172.6 million in 2013; and 170.7 million in 2013-14.

The amount of PGA Tour golf on TV and available via simulcasts online can dilute the average viewership numbers, said Octagon’s Scott Seymour, whose agency represents clients such as BMW and MasterCard in golf.

Tour officials say they are focused on cumulative audience numbers, which remain strong.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
“The tour has added a ton of hours and they’re moving more toward total consumption,” Seymour said. “There are so many ways to consume the sport now, but that can erode ratings.”

The tour also was largely without its biggest draw this past season — Tiger Woods. The 38-year-old played in seven official tournaments in 2014, and largely failed to contend. He posted just one top-25 finish as he battled a back injury.

“Our cumulative audience is something our title sponsors look at,” Votaw said. “When you have companies like Travelers and AT&T extend for 10 years, that tells you they see a bright future in the value proposition.”

The 2014 tournaments also faced some difficult competition for eyeballs. The Sochi Olympics in February went up against three tour events, while the FIFA World Cup ran from June into July.

The CBS, NBC and Golf Channel viewership numbers do not include major championships or the Ryder Cup.