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Rough Ratings Run For West Coast, Florida Swings

Other than Tiger's absence and not enough Phil on leaderboards, it's hard to pinpoint the network ratings decline for PGA Tour events of late.

Sports Media Watch's Paulsen notes that six straight PGA Tour Sundays--Waste Management to Valspar--have shown ratings declines, as have nine of the last 11 final rounds.

Certainly the cord cutting eating into all ratings is in play, yet Golf Channel's cable lead-in coverage isn't  seeing the level of decline that the network broadcast ratings are experiencing.

There were also commanding third round leads in nearly all of the last six, which never helps attract the general sports fans who might stumble on golf and stick with a close final round.

Either way, this is of note in a year the PGA Tour may opt out of its current network deal to re-shape the schedule and/or bring in additional broadcast partners. From Paulsen:

Final round coverage of the PGA Tour at Tampa Bay had a 1.5 final rating and 2.3 million viewers last Sunday, down 25% in ratings and 22% in viewership from last year (2.0, 2.9M), down 29% and 26% respectively from 2015 (2.1, 3.1M) and the least-watched final round of the tournament since 2011 (1.9M).

Not counting lead-in windows on Golf Channel, the past six final round PGA Tour telecasts have declined from last year. Sunday’s telecast was the third of those to hit a multi-year low.

At least Feherty is turning in some nice ratings. Part 2 of his chat with Phil drew a stout .27, 442k viewer average up 26% over last year's Jordan Spieth Part 2 show. This makes it the most watched Feherty ever.

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Reader Comments (43)

I thought I'd see more LPGA ratings news with Wie in contention lately. Also since the lid-lifter a few months ago did well.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
I track TV ratings because I have too much time on my hands and the general trend for golf on TV is slowly downward. But I was surprised to see a drastic slide in Golf Channel ratings for the news show, Golf Central for the first nine weeks of this year:

Golf Central: nine week ave. 2017 - 41,000 viewers any given minute versus 2016 - 95,000 viewers, a 57% decline. This is in contrast to Morning Drive numbers: 2017 - 51,000 v 2016 - 56,000, only an 8% decline.

source: Nielsen, Inc.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Wilson
@Bill, if Golf Central would do away with the comedy routines and get back to reporting golf it might help. The fact they are shills for all the dumb things the USGA are doing doesn't help either.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHero
Why would the Tour consider 'opting out' of its current network deal? That would be crazy, given that they that got such big money for the deal, before the ratings decline. They'd never get that much for a deal today. The days of crazy big money for TV contracts are ending.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBud
Maybe it's just me getting older and more irritable, but Golf Central was more watchable before they went to a full hour and had Hammons and Mills anchoring. It was more straight-up golf news and less filler. The addition of people like Tripp Isenhour and Michael Breed does not make me want to watch more; it has just the opposite effect. It makes me long for the halcyon days of Kelly Tilghman and Mike Ritz. As for Feherty, the interview portions are fine. The rest of the show, from the opening credits to the standup segments surrounding the interviews, remains near-unwatchable. A little Feherty goes a long ways these days. He was far better before he decided he had to always try to be funny.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGreg B.
In past years, the numbers for Golf Central were always at least double those for Morning Drive and even triple.
Nowadays they are consistently less than Morning Drive.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Wilson
@George B....precisely and add Peter Kessler to the mix...Feherty is a silly ass...too many washed up golfers trying to become broadcasters...Jason Day, Spieth, Dustin and Rhory don't move the needle-they only move my bowles...
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterStevie
Cord cutting shouldn't be affecting the ratings as the weekend rounds are usually on CBS or NBC via an antenna. Cord cutters normally supplement online viewing with an antenna to access OTA content. And cord cutters would have fewer channels so less competition and no chance to watch a replay on the Golf Channel. So look elsewhere for a reason.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterWayner
This may seem off the wall to many, but as a close observer of the game for 50 years a tour caddy, golf broadcaster, and fan, I can't help but think that the on-course "bad-ass" approach of so many of the games elite players is taking its' toll on ratings. So many of the players today fail to engage the crowds that are out there to see them. A disturbing number of them fail to even acknowledge the fans when they applaud for the player's shot! They seldom smile, and it all leads me to believe that they are unaware that they are in the entertainment business, first and foremost. Many of the players dress in black, which might not seem like it should matter, but to these eyes, it reinforces the blandness of their facial expressions and reactions. I am not a fan of Phil M., but recognize his extreme level of popularity, which I believe is due to his talents AND his willingness to interact with the fans. I realize that the players aren't going to play to the camera for the benefit of viewers...although that helps to explain the explosion in popularity of AP back in the day, for no one recognized the connection that the camera offered more than The King. However, in my opinion the dour countenance of most of today's players contributes to an atmosphere of dullness in most of today's telecasts.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered Commentersurfmeister
The PGA Tour is cannibalizing it's own telecasts and the current ratings are proof. As more new forms of access are created...(Pga Tour Live, Featured groups, featured holes, Golf Channel early shows etc.) the network ratings decline . This will be a huge problem in future negotiations with CBS, NBC, Fox. Comparing weekend ratings before these new forms of access and today's telecasts is like comparing different generations of golfers... useless. Of course, if PGA Tour owned everything, they wouldn't care.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered Commenteranother thought
Again I see this in the light of the JM interview. Now that Tim has moved on with his truck load of money Jay must try to sell a tour that lacks a dominant player. Why? In part because the equipment makes it so hard for someone to do that today. So he has decided to use the internet to connect to the younger demographics who think golf is only good at a bar (top golf) or while accompanied by music in the cart. Why is this flawed? Because old white Viagra men don't want to have to learn another way to watch golf. They have a big screen HDTV for that and they want to see golf shots, not commercials. Good luck Jay.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMunihack
Bill Wilson and @Hero -- if all Morning Drive and Golf Central can attract us 34k and 56k viewers, respectively, then the game is in much bigger trouble than I thought.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterLongBall
Great insights in the comments. Surfmeister nailed it. Players all dress the same and act as though we wish the course was empty. The tour should keep the contract they have. Monahan would be nuts to try and renegotiate. Of course, ego can make people nuts...
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark
Using Morning Drive as an example, there is always a spike around a major event, witness last year:

1. Ryder Cup, Open Ch. week 94,000 (tie)
2. Players Ch. week 84,000
3. Masters week 82,000
4. US Open week 72,000

1.Riviera 69,000
2.Pebble 65,000
3.Honda 58,000
4. Phoenix 55,000
5. WGC Mexico 53,000
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Wilson
Phil rattling off the factors and effects he considers for each shot was about the most valuable 15 seconds ever on the network.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterJohn C
Rest assured Shackelfordians, the PGA Tour Channel/Network is right around the corner. Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, an entrepreneurial spirit, and dozens of hard working, talented, risk takers (Kessler, Hammons among them) made Golf Channel a phenomenon and a success. Slightly more than 20 years later, self-important, entitled, uncharasmatic, athletes, corporate malaise infested with incompetence, and burgeoning technology will spell its demise.

Perhaps a cable news channel with a conservative bent, to rival Fox News, will take Golf Channel's spot on the "dial".
Apparently, professional golf on television is watched less than 60 year-old old Lassie re-runs, and the over 25 million golfers in America couldn't give a monkey's arse about it. Surely it is far past time that television golf stopped catering to the boring professionals and paid more attention to the real golfers who finance the golf industry?
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFore
Gotta go with the master surfer. I used to watch. Now, not so much. As Tommy Bolt put it, leaders play in the afternoons, which is why I so often have the place to myself on weekends. It's the only time I'm leading. But, last Sunday I was resting a gimpy knee so I tuned in. My takeaway:

NBC crew is easier on the ears than CBS, but they don't show any more golf. The telecast was a few shots, a putt or two, and a commercial. Rinse, repeat. I did re-grip my putter, so I got something done.

Nevertheless, the duel between Cantlay and Hadwin was compelling golf on a worthy course. That should make for good viewing, but really, the audience is small, in desperate need of ED drugs, and will remain so.

If Cantlay didn't look and act like he was on the way to a root canal without anesthesia, he might have had the wit, even after his layoff, to not flail it away with a weak pass on the 18th right into the sand. From which he is currently hopeless. Lighten up, young man. You are near the top of your profession, with a bright future. Smile. And if you can't do that, at least fake it.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKLG
I think GC and ESPN have over thought the value of perpetual analysis and talking about sports instead of actually showing them. This is the inevitable result of trying to "package" live sports as a product to fit into the TV slots like a sit-com. As more boomers stop watching and millenials never start watching what is left? Trying to control all media content. Bivens was crucified when she tried this with the LPGA.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered Commentermunihack
@munihack -- Great reminder on the unfortunate Bivens strategy. Others should stay mindful of where that went wrong.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBedard

The value proposition from a viewer’s perspective, on the average Tour event, has been watered down. There are a number of aspects that contribute to this, such as the WGC’s gains diluted value (or cannibalized) with other Tour events. The large amount of money on Tour these days likely has a contributing factor once they have their pockets full they aren’t hungry anymore.

Looking at a typical PGA Tour leaderboards today compared to decades ago, I can’t help but see diluted value. That being the combined player value compared to PGA Tour leaderboards from decades ago.

So I picked two similar Tour events from different eras. I decided to look at the first Tour event in the Florida swing this year and the same one 25-years ago, the 1992 Doral Open. There has always been a thought that the first Tour event in Florida is when the PGA Tour really gets going… preparing for Augusta.

So looking into this year’s 2017 Honda Classic, with a deeper look at the top 10 finishers compared to the top 10 finishers in the 1992 Doral Open.

The top 10 players in the 2017 Honda Classic have a combined 14 PGA Tour victories and 1 Major Championship win.

The top 10 players in the 1992 Doral Open have a combined 131 PGA Tour victories and 15 Major Championship wins.

This is just one look at one comparable but I think there’s a pattern here… it affects my desire to watch golf on Sunday. I’d say the PGA Tour’s next package deal with network TV is in for a haircut.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZokol
Trying to watch Bay Hill right now. A course I have played a number of times (I even had a chance to speak with Arnold Palmer!). This is just plain boring. Could tees pros try to remember that this is supposed entertaining to the viewers? This is as bad when Davis Love, Strange, and Couples were the guys to watch.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterHBL
Great post. Part of why I watch the women. Best players in the world every week.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterDon
Point taken. But...

The '92 Doral guys didn't have 15 majors at that time--they had 10, seven of them from two guys--Floyd and Nelson. You extrapolated out the entire careers of the top-10 guys instead of value as perceived in March '92. You then took leaderboard from present and froze the players at current stages of their careers. Present-day guys are horses in mid-stream, sort of how Couples was, value-wise, in 1992.

1992 Bay Hill, number of majors won, at that time, from top 10: Two--Jeff Sluman and Mark Brooks.
2016 Bay Hill, number of majors won, at that time, from top 10: Four--every trophy covered. Jason Day, Zach Johnson and Justin Rose.
Using your method, which has more value?

Having nitpicked your methodology, I agree with you in general--it's a diluted product.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBedard
Don, exactly right.
Because the women's tour has several gaps in the schedule through the year, a lot of the top players show up together most weeks.
It's a question of spotting which top player is having a week off rather than which have shown up.
Five (at least) from the womens top ten ranked players are in the top top ten of the current tournament, the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, after 3 rounds today. Plus Stacy Lewis and Anna Nordquist.
So Sunday is interesting- almost every week.
I see a lot of blame for the declining interest in golf. Blame the USGA, blame Tim Finchem, blame the golf ball, blame slow play, blame green fees, blame TV, blame Trump, blame Obama...but the real reason is the game itself, golf has gone the way of the land line, a few people hang on but it is really no longer necessary. Golf has become irrelevant.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Wilson
Colin- schedule PLUS playing for less than $2 Million avg per week while the men play for close to $9 Million on average.

Bill- climb down off of your "golf hating ledge". The game is hardly "irrelevant, it just finds itself competing with more and more things for attention.
I rarely watch Golf Central as it is always opposite either our local news programs (supper and late night), or prime time shows. Also, while Tripp is ok, I find myself tuning out when Lisa speaks... somehow she doesn't come across as a "golf expert". I much prefer it when Rosie, Hogart or Feinstein are on the panel.

As for Morning Drive.. When I want to watch it, I Tivo it, then skip thru most of the shows except for Shack's and Rosie's segments 0n Mondays and Tuesdays, and a few other special commentators or interviews during the week. The endless personal assessment commentary of the co-hosts turns me off. A little bit is ok, but it's over done. Have more pro guests or other people besides the hosts to provide content.

As for the show hosts, Cara is good, Gary has improved over the years, Ginella is good, DeMarco is worth listening to, Blackmar was interesting. The rest of the crew... I Fast Forward over.

One other thing... I know GC was created by Arnold, and when he died I could accept that GC would go over board on the tributes and melancholy. But this week... WOW!

What's the status on having Arnold declared Saint Arnold by the Pope?

I loved Arnold and wrote to him myself last year to ask him to send my Dad a Happy Birthday greeting for his 88th birthday, which he did and for which I will always be grateful and love him for. But really guys, enough is enough!
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterRVMcC
"The game is hardly "irrelevant, it just finds itself competing with more and more things for attention."

Isn't that the definition of irrelevant?
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Wilson
Sorry but as "good" as these viewership numbers might seem the reality is that more people still watch infomercials, shopping channels or reruns of MASH and Hogans Heroes than the best rated show on Golf Channel. It's long past the time when we should believe golf ratings are relevant. Golf has its tiny television niche and there is nothing currently that will change that.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterOWGR Fan
Geoff you posted "Part 2 of his chat with Phil drew a stout .27"

1/27 of 1% is considered a stout television rating? C'mon now. If that makes Part 2 of Phil the highest rated Feherty ever then that rating shows how few people actually watch the show.
03.18.2017 | Unregistered CommenterOWGR Fan
The PGA needs to tear a page from the LPGA dress code and allow the men to dress as sexy as they want to increase the female viewing stats. Fowler in hot-pants FTW?

@Punxsutawney Figjam - Jason Day wearing a men's size small golf shirt (as confirmed by Mark Rolfing this week) is about as sexy as you are going to get on Tour.

@Zokol - I agree completely with your analysis despite the nitpicking over who had what majors when. The reasons are many but I am surprised nobody has mentioned the entire WGC debacle, which nobody except the player agents and their financial advisors care about, and which has resulted in regular Tour events losing much of their star power as players need to balance their schedules. This week's API is a good example of that.
03.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterGreg B.

You are absolutely right, there’s no doubt a better snapshot of the 1992 Honda Classic would be to see how many PGA Tour wins and Major Championship victories the top 10 players had at that moment. As you pointed out there were 10 Major victories from that group at that time. That number is still staggering difference.

This is just one dart throw too… it would be an interesting to look at this type of metric to make a better comparable and prove out this theory.
03.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZokol
Bill - Nope

[ih-rel-uh-vuh nt]
not relevant; not applicable or pertinent:
His lectures often stray to interesting but irrelevant subjects.
Using the 1993 PGA Tour Media Guide as a data source and working off an end of the year snapshot of the cumulative number of wins by the top 10 in the 1992 Doral Open v. the top 10 at the 2017 Honda Classic. Can’t think of a data source that can get the exact moment comparison. So the best apples to apples comparison I can think of would be available by the end of this season.

This snapshot of the number of PGA Tour victories, by the top 10 of both subject events at the end of the 1992 season is 101 PGA Tour Victories and 11 Majors. Keeping in mind post 1992 Doral Open, Couples went on to win the Masters and Kite won the US Open that year.

So the 2017 Honda Classic group can add to the list of PGA Tour and Major wins before the end of this year in order to get a better comparison.

But the point of diluted value in TV viewing is obvious… The networks need a ROI and the PGA Tour’s negotiating position relating to future network TV packages is weakening. The rating numbers are clear. The “Tiger Bubble” is over… if the PGA Tour were publicly traded, perhaps investors would start going short. Money in today’s PGA Tour purses is based, to some degree, on that Tiger Bubble. I would have to think a possible correction in PGA Tour prize money particularly in the lesser Tour events might follow.
03.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterZokol
Golf on television is a product that very very few people find relevant. It is a complete corporate advertisement. Playing golf is what it is all about for the vast majority of golfers; as it should be with all the waste of money professional sports on television. We should be building new parks and sports fields for all sports, and not giving money to people to play for us!
03.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterFore
Networks are looking for programming these days and even though golf's ratings are slumping it still provides a proven, well-heeled demographic and a sponsorship base ready to spend money. If Golf Channel, NBC or CBS think shrinking ratings is a good reason to "short" the Tour during these negotiations they could be in for a big surprise. FOX, Turner and others (Amazon, Yahoo) have big bucks and they may be ready to spend them.
Have to follow the demographics. Face it, boomers, of which I'm one, are dropping every day. I'd hazard a guess that most golf watchers play golf. Boomers play golf, millennials typically don't and they're going to be around when we're gone. It's just math.
03.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterOriginal AG
Golf Channel needs to drain the swamp....way too many people on camera during most of their studio programs.
03.19.2017 | Unregistered CommenterKeith - NYC

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