The PGA Tour's new television deal confirms the obvious - general interest in golf peaked years ago and is now in decline. Recreational golf has been flat or worse in terms of rounds played for many years. The two are interdependent.
Get this man talking points, now!
For the Tour to find and command a new audience would require a freakish event like a hermaphrodite dwarf becoming leading money winner. And it would help if the dwarf's caddie could be Anna Nicole Smith.
Golf's popularity on television has also diminished because the Tour, which is absolutely no fun to deal with, thinks it knows television. This is particularly so of Commissioner Tim Finchem who has bullied the broadcasters about production techniques.
Hey, PGA Tour Sunday is a wonderful sedative.
The Tour also attempts to control overall content especially what the announcers say even who they are. ABC went outside the mould by hiring Nick Faldo who was a critical success because he occasionally spoke bluntly and without reverence. The Tour, believe me, did not like Nick Faldo one bit. It's not crazy about NBC's Johnny Miller either. Miller's success derives from his sounding on the air the way he sounds off the air.
Finchem has insisted in putting himself on the air as an interview subject. When I was with ABC during the l990s one of his minions would wander into the announcers' booth and casually ask what the questions of the boss might be. It's gone beyond that now. They want the actual words of the questions submitted in advance. Even Charles deGaulle couldn't get away with that.
He gets the questions in advance and still comes off that bored? Wow.
And this is interesting:
Equating the "basic cable" outlets ESPN and USA to The Golf Channel is nonsense. The AC Nielsen Company does not even provide ratings for The Golf Channel because the audience is too small to measure reliably. The word "subscribers" is tossed around in a misleading fashion.
Take my case. I live in a community of 20 homes. All can get The Golf Channel by paying an extra monthly fee. I am the only one who does so because I get a kick out of hearing an old friend, Renton Laidlaw, do the European Tour. None of my neighbors, described by the careless New York Times, as among The Golf Channel's purported 75 million "subscribers", will jump aboard The Golf Channel starting in 2007.
Frank, don't tell me you still subscribe to that whole "paper of record" nonsense!?
I know prominent golf writers who have refused to get the Golf Channel for $5 month, even after I tell them that they must have it for the major championship coverage, European Tour and other bright spots in between the flood of infomercials and reality shows.
So it may be a tough sell on Frank's neighbors.