Erik Matuszewski of Forbes reports the final golf viewing numbers for 2016, with NBC/Golf Channel seeing substantional viewer increases thanks in part to adding The Open Championship and golf's Olympic return.
Given the declining numbers in most sports television, the increases appear especially positive, as Matuszewski notes:
While many major sports networks saw viewership declines in 2016 – ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, NFL Network and MLB Network among them -- Golf Channel viewership rose 8% over a year ago while NBC Sports Network saw a 14% audience increase. Golf Channel matched its highest-rated year ever, tying its record numbers from 2013 when Tiger Woods won five PGA Tour titles, including two at events with highly-visible Monday finishes on the network.
“With most of the media world seeing declines, seeing double-digit increases like this is important and it proves that our investments are paying off,” Mike McCarley, the President of Golf for NBC Sports Group, said in an interview.
In 2017 live golf will account for 37% of Golf Channel's programming, up from 18% in 2011.
The full press release:
NBC’S GOLF COVERAGE DRAWS LARGEST U.S. AUDIENCE IN 2016
WITH 71 MILLION UNIQUE VIEWERS, UP 27% YEAR-OVER-YEAR
Golf Channel Matches Highest-Rated Year Ever in 2016
Millennial Audience Grows 33% Year-over-Year, Doubles over Past 2 Years
Golf Channel Digital Scores Best Year Ever Across All Platforms
ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 5, 2017) – NBC Sports’ Golf Channel on NBC coverage drew the largest U.S. broadcast golf audience in 2016 with 71 million unique viewers, +27% vs. 2015 and NBC Sports’ largest total audience for live golf coverage since 2013. Building upon NBC Sports’ slate of marquee PGA TOUR events, viewership growth was driven by the addition of long-term partnerships with The Open and Ryder Cup, as well as golf returning to the Olympics. With the most live hours of coverage in network history, Golf Channel also drew its largest total audience with almost 45 million unique viewers. As a result of a continued investment in high-quality, live programming, Golf Channel matched its highest-rated year ever for the third consecutive year (.08 U.S. household rating, 24-hour total day 6AM-6AM) since the network was founded 22 years ago by Arnold Palmer. After joining NBC Sports Group in 2011, Golf Channel has scored its six best years ever and has increased ratings +60% and viewership +53% over that span, according to data released by The Nielsen Company. Additional highlights include:
· Golf Channel one of four sports networks experiencing 2016 viewership growth
· The Open, Ryder Cup propel Golf Channel to most-watched day ever record, twice
· Golf Channel posts seventh consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth
“NBC Sports’ golf coverage had a transformational year in 2016 with the addition of robust, multi-platform coverage of The Open, Olympics, and a U.S. hosted Ryder Cup – all in a 12-week span. These high-quality, live events coupled with an affluent, loyal and younger audience across all platforms helped fuel the success of golf within the NBC Sports Group,” said Mike McCarley, president of Golf, NBC Sports Group. “With more live coverage than ever before, including more live golf coverage than all other networks combined, Golf Channel has experienced tremendous growth since joining the NBC Sports Group in 2011 and now provides more live coverage than ever before. With this growth, we firmly believe the best is yet to come.”
TELEVISED GOLF REACHES 89.7 MILLION VIA NBC SPORTS LINEAR CHANNELS
In 2016, Golf Channel and NBC reached nearly 90 million unique viewers by providing more live tournament golf coverage than all other U.S. television networks combined. Golf Channel televised 139 events that reached more than 500k viewers (+83% vs. 2010) and 13 events that reached more than 1 million viewers (+117% vs. 2010), representing double-digit growth since joining the NBC Sports Group in 2011.
1 OF ONLY 4 SPORTS NETWORKS WITH VIEWERSHIP GROWTH IN 2016
Golf Channel’s 8% growth for average viewership and 11% growth for persons 25-54 ranked third among all sports networks, which in 2016 only saw four networks experience growth:
GOLF CHANNEL TWICE SETS RECORD FOR MOST-WATCHED DAY IN NETWORK HISTORY
Golf Channel first set its record for most-watched total day in network history on Friday, July 15 with second round coverage of The Open (584k average viewers), which included 14 consecutive hours of live coverage from Royal Troon, Scotland. Then on Friday, September 30, Day 1 coverage of the Ryder Cup propelled the network to a new record for most-watched day in network history (673k average viewers), which included 10.5 hours of live coverage.
7 CONSECUTIVE QUARTERS OF YEAR-OVER-YEAR GROWTH
Golf Channel has posted seven consecutive quarters of year-over-year growth, including second and third quarters posting all-time quarterly high marks in 2016 (125,000 and 121,000 average viewers, respectively), and fourth quarter being the most watched since 2011 (72,000 average viewers). Ultimately, Golf Channel posted its second most-watched year ever (107,000 average viewers, 24-hour total day 6AM-6AM, +8% vs. 2015), surpassed only slightly by 2013 (108,000 average viewers).
KEY YOUNG & AFFLUENT DEMOS CONTRIBUTE TO CONTINUED GROWTH
Viewership growth was driven in part by millennials with impressions for persons 25-34 increasing +33% in total day, a mark that has doubled over the past two years, as well as +43% in primetime. Also in 2016, Golf Channel continued as the No. 1 most-affluent ad-supported television network in both total day and primetime for the third consecutive year with the highest median household income.
RECORD GROWTH FOR GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL
Golf Channel’s success extended across all platforms, including more than 264 million live streaming minutes (+96% vs. 2015) via Golf Channel Digital, which also saw best-ever results in key metrics for video starts (48 million, +19%), page views (894 million, +2%), and unique devices (4.9 million, .5%). Golf Channel also helped connect more golfers to the game via its portfolio of digital lifestyle brands, including GolfNow, which utilizes technology to encourage more golfers to play more golf.
ADDITIONAL 2016 GOLF CHANNEL VIEWERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS
· Growth Throughout the Year (average viewers, 24-hour total day 6AM-6AM)
o First Quarter +15 % YOY Most-Watched Feb. & March since 2013
o Second Quarter +1 % YOY Most-Watched 2nd Quarter Ever
o Third Quarter +6 % YOY Most-Watched 3rd Quarter Ever
o Fourth Quarter +16 % YOY Most Watched 4th Quarter since 2011
o NBC Sports’ first-ever live coverage of The Open finished as the most-watched final round since 2009, and finished +20% vs. 2015. Overall, coverage reached 20.8 million unique viewers across NBC and Golf Channel, +10% vs. 2015 and highest since 2012.
o Golf Channel’s first-ever live coverage of a men’s major championship at The Open propelled the network to be a Top-5 cable network during Thursday and Friday coverage with total viewers and the No. 1 cable sports network with both average viewers and persons 25-54 (6 a.m.–2 p.m. ET).
o Live streaming of NBC Sports’ coverage of The Open delivered 51.3 million minutes on 606k unique devices across all platforms, marking all-time highs for an NBC Sports golf event.
o NBC Sports’ first-ever comprehensive coverage of the Ryder Cup from a U.S. venue across both NBC and Golf Channel reached 22.2 million unique viewers.
o Golf Channel was the No. 1 cable sports network by 319% and the No. 2 cable network from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET on Friday.
o Across all NBC Sports Digital platforms, live streaming of the Ryder Cup delivered 35.1 million minutes on 487k unique devices and an average-minutes audience of 22k, which is the highest average-minutes audience ever for an NBC Sports golf event.
o For the first time in more than 100 years, golf returned to the Olympics, and 24.5 million unique viewers watched coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, including 21 million unique viewers who watched the men’s competition on Golf Channel and NBC and 5.5 million unique viewers who watched the women’s competition on Golf Channel.
o Golf Channel and NBC both aired the conclusion of the men’s competition and this was the second highest-rated 90 minutes of golf in 2016, only behind the Masters, with a combined 5.6 U.S. household rating and 8.578 million average viewers.
Additional Golf Channel Programming
o Golf Central viewership +5% vs. 2015 for average viewership and persons 25-54. This is Golf Central’s most-watched year since 2013.
o Morning Drive’s average viewership was even vs. 2015, but +27% with persons 25-54, the highest performance with this key demo since 2013.
o Feherty posted its best season ever with total average viewers. March premieres featuring Jordan Spieth (Part 1: 325k average viewers, Part 2: 351k average viewers) and Jason Day (279k average viewers) were the most-watched premieres since the series debuted in June 2011 (Live+Same Day DVR). Both Jordan Spieth premieres became the most-watched Feherty episodes ever, averaging more than 430k average viewers on a Live+3 basis.
o Golf Channel’s primetime delivery overall was +2% vs. 2015 (123k average viewers)