Wrapping Up Last Season Before Next Season Starts (Thursday): 2018 v. 2019 PGA Tour Ratings Comparison

Robopz calls him/herself “anonymous 3rd-tier 4th estate type” but did some nice work trying to compare 2018 PGA Tour ratings vs. 2019. While the overall number was slightly down and a few events took steep plunges due to date change or a Tiger presence, overall a flat number these days is good news.

While golf is expensive to broadcast and the demographic isn’t as gullible and hooked on its phones as the coveted M’s, it still delivers a lot to sponsors, fans and beats airing informercials (I would hope).

Anyway, give him/her a follow here as you’ll find some other fun stats and info. You can click on the images to see them better:

Video: Bodenheimer Recalls Arnie's Iconic Sportscenter Promo

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As part of ESPN’s 40th anniversary celebration, former president George Bodenheimer is interviewed about Arnold Palmer’s ESPN visit to shoot the iconic, icea-tea-and-lemonade mixing “This is SportsCenter” commercial also featuring the late Stuart Scott and Scott Van Pelt. Of course Arnold delivered the greatest of all Sportscenter ads, though oddly I found this one flat the first few times. But, like most great masterpieces, it’s the repeat viewings revealing the genius behind them!

Nantz On Whitaker: "He had a unique ability to blend peak thought with context in perfect prose."

What a grand tribute from Jim Nantz to his friend and mentor Jack Whitaker.

The Athletic kindly made this available to non-subscribers and it’s well worth your time, even if you are of a vintage that does not recall the days of Whitaker and the ABC golf team.

He first met Whitaker at Pebble Beach when his roommate that week, Bob Drum—oh that Chirkinian humor!—took Nantz down to Club XIX for a nightcap. It was a somber day after the space shuttle Challenger had exploded earlier in the day:

Upon entering the restaurant, there was Jack Whitaker, leaning against the bar, a martini filled to the top, perfectly poured. He had on a tweed jacket with a turtleneck underneath and he was just the personification of elegance, a man well-traveled. I honestly could not believe I was shaking his hand, feeling as though I had just been introduced to Ernest Hemingway.

His short essays often concluded the biggest sporting events around the world, and he had a unique ability to blend peak thought with context in perfect prose. Though there were no words that could soften the shocking horror of the day, Jack, with his gift, was somehow able to bring some solace and perspective to an otherwise unexplainable event.

The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame tribute piece has now been added to YouTube:

More Reads On The Late Jack Whitaker

My original post was here but some wonderful tributes have rolled in to celebrate the life, work and times of Jack Whitaker.

Frank Fitzpatrick of Whitaker’s home town Philadelphia Inquirer with a sensational remembrance, including this:

As one of sports broadcasting’s first and best essayists, Whitaker, who died Sunday at 95, introduced elegance and erudition into the genre. His work was infused by a broad vocabulary, a tweedy wardrobe, and a thoughtful demeanor.

But while he added a professorial air to decades’ worth of telecasts from Super Bowls, Masters, Olympics and Kentucky Derbys, the Germantown native never forgot that he once stood before a camera dressed like a gunslinger.

“It wasn’t my finest hour,” Whitaker told the Inquirer in 2007, “but you did what you had to do and you hoped it made you better.”

 Richard Goldstein filed another superb New York Times obituary, writes:

But he was perhaps best known for his essays about sports, inspired by writers he admired like Alistair Cooke and Heywood Hale Broun. He received an Emmy in 1979 as “outstanding sports personality” and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Emmy Awards in 2012. “I know that I’m regarded as The Talking Head,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1977. “I’d like to be exactly that and say something that people will remember or get excited about. I’d like to bring sports into the thinking process.”

Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic respected Whitaker’s talent as a writer, but he said the combination of that talent with his voice prompted him to wonder if we’ve lost one of the last broadcasting icons:

But, like with most broadcasters, it was his voice that mattered most, in tone and in authority. 

Dick Enberg had one, too. So did Vin Scully, who’s still alive but stopped calling baseball games in 2016.

Who are the voices who will take their place? Not as announcers, whether calling a came or providing analysis.

Who will replace them as icons? Anyone?

We discussed Whitaker this morning on Morning Drive.

Overnights: 2019 BMW A 2.4, U.S. Amateur At Pinehurst A .3

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According to Sports Business Daily, the 2019 BMW Championship drew a 1.9 Saturday audience and a 2.4 for Sunday’s final round on NBC, well up over non-Tiger-contending Wyndham Championship’s previously played in this schedule spot. The 2018 Wyndham drew a 1.9.

The slide in US Amateur interest and visibility continued with a .4 Saturday and a .3 for Sunday’s finale on Fox going head-to-head with most of the BMW final round. Talk about an event screaming out for a change in its Monday to Sunday format to avoid being an afterthought.

Two notes on the audiences from Tunity regarding the BMW final and first rounds:

R.I.P. Jack Whitaker

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One of the voices most closely associated with televised golf, Jack Whitaker was a World War II veteran, essayist and voice of genuine authority in sports broadcasting. His career spanned decades in multiple sports, including the first Super Bowl, Wide World of Sports and legions of Triple Crown races.

But his work in golf is how most of us knew him and grew to expect his presence, as no event was complete without a Whitaker essay.

In golf his work started with CBS at the Masterswith a brief Clifford Roberts induced break—and then as a huge part of ABC’s glory years with Jim McKay, Dave Marr, Bob Rosburg, Peter Alliss, Judy Rankin and others, followed by many more years handling Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf’s reboot, he lent a gravitas like few others in all of broadcasting.

A major influence on some of sports’ most authoritative voices, Whitaker’s life is captured in this CBS obituary by Brian Pascus. The story includes this remembrance from his friend, understudy and Sports Broadcasting HOF inductor, Jim Nantz.

“When I first met Jack Whitaker in 1986 at Pebble Beach, I felt like I had just been introduced to Ernest Hemingway," Nantz said. "I grew up watching him deliver contemplative and contextual prose with his famous short essays, bringing class and dignity to his industry. He was enormously proud to have called Super Bowl I for CBS and was the last surviving network commentator from that landmark game. I spoke to him this week after hospice came to his home and his mind was still brilliantly sharp right to the end."

From Rich Lerner:

His Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame page with Nantz’s induction speech and tribute film narrated by Brent Musburger. A must watch!

He most recently could be heard playing the role of A.W. Tilinghast in this 2019 feature for Golf Channel.

A few things to sample since the YouTube offerings are slim, starting with this interview:

And here’s a little later career work on Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf:

PGA Tour Exec: "It’s not an easy thing to consider leaving Comcast, but it’s also not an insurmountable one.”

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On top of the original July 29 story by John Ourand and John Lombardo detailing the possible ways a new PGA Tour television/digital deal may play out, a second and more pointed column from Ourand appeared on August 5th. I’m presuming the quotes from this were in the original interview, though the tone of this column is decidedly more incumbent-friendly than the original piece.

Ourand predicts that it will take “a significant bid to convince the tour to turn away from” the Golf Channel, NBC and parent company Comcast.

But it’s the quote from the PGA Tour exec in charge of shaping the new deal that will interest (or concern) fans and viewers.

“It’s not simple,” Rick Anderson, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president of global media, told SBJ golf writer John Lombardo and me recently. “Comcast has built an entire multibillion-dollar linear channel with our programming. They are phenomenal in terms of their production of golf, and they have a strength of position in the game. Changing that and walking away from that and leaving them will not be easy. It would be the hardest path. It would be a lot easier to talk about doing a renewal instead of going to the market … It’s not an easy thing to consider leaving Comcast, but it’s also not an insurmountable one.”

Phenomenal but not insurmountably so.

As for the viewer appetite to stream golf, Anderson believes the audience wants more digital streaming, even if means watching a guy take over two minutes to hit a six foot putt and paying for the privilege.

“The digital platform is as big an opportunity as the linear channel,” Anderson said. “We know that our opportunity extends beyond the current business model of cable and a linear channel. We can build a real digital platform that has content that people will pay for and in a different way than any other sport can do.”

Anderson said the tour’s available package has more than enough content, particularly Thursday through Sunday with the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA Tour Champions and Korn Ferry tours.

“The landscape that I see with those big deals is definitely a linear channel, but then an extremely robust digital platform where you really could almost literally go and watch golf on a 24-7 basis,” Anderson said.

I continue to have a hard time seeing more than friends and family paying significant chunks of change for a more robust PGA Tour Live on top of all other streaming or cable subscriptions.

Maybe the folks doing this negotiation will be inspired by Disney’s brilliant, trend-bucking bundle announced last week and pricing of its new combined Disney/ESPN+/Hulu and give golf fans the chance to buy a one-stop place for all of this content at a fair price.

Brooks And Brandel A (Lighter) Sparring Item Again

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I’ve missed these two lovebirds chirping at one another, so naturally Brandel Chamblee had to go and pick on Brooks Koepka displaying improper etiquette by standing ahead of Rory McIlroy during their Northern Trust round.

While Bryson v. Brooks could have turned ugly Sunday—it did not but gave Eamon Lynch a fantastic start to a slow play column—I still have hope for eternal sniping between Brooks and Golf Channel’s Chamblee.

Josh Berhow of Golf.com pieces together the latest manspat, this time Chamblee trying to suggest walking ahead was a greater breach of etiquette than a slow player.

Team Koepka alerted their man, who replied on Twitter (above) with a little less bite than some of other recent jabs back at Chamblee, which date back to the Masters when Chamblee questioned Koepka’s toughness and quality of his major wins.

Despite The Leaderboard, Final WGC Fed Ex St. Jude Ratings Tumble Hard

The schedule in 2020 will stick the new Minnesota stop in the slot after The Open, so maybe this is an aberration. But given the quality of the leaderboard (Brooks Koepka/Rory McIlroy final pairing), the final ratings for the WGC FedEx St. Jude were not good.

Paulsen from SportsMediaWatch attempted to compare them to both the old WGC Bridgestone (played in August) and the FedEx St. Jude Classic’s ratings (June). And the new WGC FedEx still fell shy of those events.

Last Sunday’s final round of the PGA Tour/WGC-St. Jude Invitational averaged a 1.6 rating and 2.31 million viewers on CBS, down 30% in ratings and 33% in viewership from last year (2.3, 3.45M), and down 11% and 13% respectively from 2017 (1.8, 2.66M). The 1.6 rating is the lowest for final round coverage of the event — previously the Bridgestone Invitational — since 2012 (1.3).

Numbers for pre-coverage on Golf Channel were also way down from the event’s ratings in the August/Bridgestone slot.

PGA Tour Expediting TV Rights Deal To Avoid NFL, Believes Golf Needs A Second "Linear Channel"

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I got a chance to read the longer version of John Ourand and John Lombardo’s SBD piece on the PGA Tour rights fees and beyond the summarized version I posted about yesterday.

There were several interesting nuggets shared by Rick Anderson, who will head the Tour’s negotiations.

Ourand and Lombardo call the timing “aggressive” given that it could create an awkward situation with existing partners for two full seasons. Or…

If the PGA Tour signs new deals with CBS and NBC, it will be able to add new features two years early. If it moves on from CBS and NBC, the tour believes that it will need those two years to develop a new channel and digital presence.

Another reason for the tour to move early is to take advantage of an overheated media rights market before the NFL comes in and takes over a sizable piece of that market. The NFL’s deals are up in 2021 and 2022, and all indications are that the $5.5 billion of linear TV rights deals that the league collects annually will see a huge increase. 

The NFL is also pushing hard to expand its season deeper into February, which could impact who might be interested in fall or west coast events.

The Tour also seems to believe there is a need for a lot more golf on television, including options to pay for the privilege of seeing every shot from every player if someone chooses to:

Anderson said he is looking for one or, potentially, two linear channels. He pointed to the content it has from the PGA Tour, LPGA, PGA Tour Champions and Korn Ferry tours as evidence that the tour has enough content to fill two channels.

“When you start talking about capturing every player and every shot, the digital platform is where that would come to light,” he said. “We know that our opportunity extends beyond the current business model of cable and a linear channel. We can build a real digital platform that has content that people will pay for and in a different way than any other sport can do.”

I’m thinking you could call it PGA Tour Live. Just a thought!

It will be fascinating to see how many streaming services believe they can sell subscriptions with golf as part of their package. It’s hard to see HBO Max and ESPN+ feeling that adding golf will be that final piece getting someone to pay $20 a month.

In sizing up the bidders, SBD’s assessments beyond the expected interest of CBS, NBC and Golf Channel featured surprising notes, presumably shared with them by Anderson:

Discovery

Discovery signed a 12-year, $2 billion deal for the PGA Tour’s international rights. It paid $30 million to $35 million for Golf Digest this spring. But Discovery has not showed interest in the tour’s U.S. rights.

What happened to Netflix for golf on our phones? Oh right, when you’ve got to cover the CEO’s absurd compensation package, it’s hard to start a new channel.

ESPN

Much of ESPN’s interest revolves around its streaming service ESPN+. But new President Jimmy Pitaro has expressed interest in the PGA Tour’s linear rights, too.

Don’t count out ABC, where golf’s demographic actually would watch in numbers that sponsors care about.

Fox

Sources say Fox is not interested in a big PGA Tour package, but the tour hopes it will want tournaments around the U.S. Open to help streamline its production and sales processes around the sport.

The new U.S. Women’s Open date rules out the Memorial going to Fox two weeks out from the men’s U.S. Open, meaning an RBC Canadian or Rocket Mortgage could be in their future?

WarnerMedia

WarnerMedia has showed a lot of interest. Last week, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson said he is in the market for live sports rights for the company’s planned direct-to-consumer streaming service HBO Max. PGA Tour rights would fit that bill.

And since he gets to have a say as part of the PGA Tour Policy Board, you have to like his chances.

SBD: AT&T May Be Willing To Flip Headline News Or TruTV Into A Golf Network As Part Of PGA Tour Bid

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That and other nuggets appear in John Ourand’s first significant Sports Business Daily story on the upcoming PGA Tour television rights chase.

The headline grabber: WarnerMedia, a subsidiary of AT&T looking to expand its sports offerings on their HBO Max app and on its various channels, is willing to create a new golf channel.

Given that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson is on the PGA Tour Policy Board with oversight of the next TV contract, common sense says his company would seem to have an inside track if it bids. Then again, his company has received one of the worst dates on the PGA Tour just weeks after the Masters and the week prior to the PGA Championship. Tony Romo was the major draw this year.

In recent months, AT&T has been dealing with debt-reduction as its primary focus though that appears to not be a major issue.

It was WarnerMedia that most recently was responsible for 2018’s The Match as a test case for sports gambling, synergy and golf. Reviews were mixed, with a massive pay-per-view payment disaster, live drones that didn’t work and a sense that the intersection of golf gambling and television has a ways to go.

Ourand writes of other negotiation notes:

During its initial conversations with media companies, the PGA Tour has made it clear that it wants to control its own linear TV channel. NBC execs have discussed letting the Tour take an ownership stake in the NBC-owned Golf Channel, which has carried the Tour’s cable TV rights exclusively for the past 13 years. WarnerMedia owns channels like HLN (Headline News), which has distribution in 86.3 million U.S. homes, or truTV, which is in 84.1 million homes. Those two would be the most likely channels to be flipped if the company follows through on its initial plan.

And this on the timing, which sounds as if it’s on a fast track to be decided sooner than later.

Even though two years remain on its current U.S. deals, the PGA Tour will invite media companies to deliver formal pitches in the coming weeks. The Tour already has held informal talks with the incumbent networks, as well as others like Amazon, ESPN, Fox and WarnerMedia. The Tour hopes to have a new media-rights deal in place by the end of the year.

1.8 Overnight For WGC FedEx St. Jude, 0.6 For Senior Open

Austin Karp reports on ratings from the weekend where the good news for golf was that it led the way with a 1.8 final round rating for the WGC FedEx St. Jude. The bad news? There was nothing of note in the way of network sports programming and sponsor FedEx did not get the eyeballs their predecessor enjoyed for the premium WGC experience.

A week later last year and then the WGC Bridgestone, the 2018 event drew a 2.5 final round rating.

The Senior Open won by Bernhard Langer drew a .5 and .6 respectively on NBC.

From Tiger To Shane: Open Championship Overnights Down 42%

Big lead, no Tiger making his first run at a major in years and what do you get? A 2.9 for NBC and ratings decline for the 2019 Open Championship.

From SBD’s Austin Karp:


.84: Open Rating Round One Best In Four Years, 55.1 Million Minutes Streamed

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Tiger playing late enough for the east and west coast to enjoy him certainly helped, but overall interest appears solid for the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush. So far at least.

For Immediate Release:

BEST OVERNIGHT RATING IN FOUR YEARS FOR

THURSDAY’S OPENING ROUND OF THE 148TH OPEN 

Opening Round Earns Highest One-Day Streaming Total for NBC Sports

at The Open, 55.1 Million Minutes (+48% YoY) Across All Platforms

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland, (July 19, 2019) – Thursday’s opening round coverage of The 148THOpen on GOLF Channel was the highest-rated opening round at The Open since 2015. Coverage averaged a .84 Overnight rating for the eight-hour telecast (8A-4P ET), up 6% vs. 2018, and it becomes the highest-rated opening round at The Open on GOLF Channel (2016-’19).

Opening round coverage peaked with a 1.0 rating from 11:15-11:45 a.m. ET. Early coverage of the opening round (1:30-8A ET) earned a .33 Overnight rating, +22% year-over-year (.27), and also becomes the best Overnight for early opening round coverage of The Open on GOLF Channel (2016-’19).

Golf Central Live From The Open (4-5P ET, .41) becomes the highest Overnight rating for any Thursday hour of Golf Central Live From (other than Thursday at the 2019 Masters) since Thursday at The Open in 2018 at Carnoustie. Thursday Total Day (6A-3A ET, .47) is GOLF Channel’s highest Total Day Overnight rating since Friday of The Open in 2018 at Carnoustie (7/20/18, 6A-3A, .51).

Opening round coverage also earned the highest one-day streaming total on record for NBC Sports at The Open (2016-’19). Thursday’s coverage saw 55.1 million minutes streamed across all platforms (+48% vs. 2018), including marquee groups, complementary feeds and on www.TheOpen.com (U.S.)

Golf’s original championship made its highly-anticipated return to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years on Thursday at Royal Portrush Golf Club. Live second round coverage continues Friday on GOLF Channel until 4 p.m. ET. Early coverage of the third and final rounds will begin on GOLF Channel on Saturday-Sunday, before shifting to NBC for the majority of play, tracking those at the top of the leaderboard as they attempt to earn the distinction of “Champion Golfer of the Year”.

New 3M Open Takes A Ratings Dip Over Comparable Week, Perhaps Fueled By AT&T Dispute

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It was an auspicious kick off to the new 3M Open with a thrilling final round headlined by Matthew Wolff’s last hole eagle to top Bryson DeChambeau’s last hole eagle, but some reported affiliates signing off as the event ran long. Others noted an AT&T satellite dispute with that meant coverage on at all for many.

Paulsen at Sports Media Watch compares ratings with last year’s 2018 Greenbrier Classic, now a fall event. He also notes pretty steady early round numbers and a nice increase over the 2019 Rocket Mortgage event’s ratings.

Will AT&T's Debt Slashing Ways Preclude A Lucrative PGA Tour Bid?

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That’s the question on some minds as the PGA Tour nears the end of its current television contracts in 2021 and looks to potentially line up suitors for both broadcast and cable rights.

AT&T, with golf-loving CEO Randall Stephenson, who also sits on the PGA Tour Policy Board, is believed to have an interest in a major investment, even potentially turning a current channel acquired from Time Warner into a standalone sports or golf network.

But Nabila Ahmed, Eben Novy-Williams and Scott Moritz write for Bloomberg, a sale of its regional sports networks appears all about reducing debt after $180 billion in acquisitions of DirecTV and Time Warner.

A sale of the regional sports networks -- known as must-see content for avid fans -- highlights AT&T’s ongoing struggle to fix a debt-heavy balance sheet. The company, which has to spend money on a number of priorities, including an expansion of its 5G wireless network, has been financially handcuffed after amassing more than $180 billion in debt with the acquisitions of DirecTV and Time Warner Inc.

Despite a steady decline in TV subscribers, AT&T Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson has said the company’s top priority this year is to reduce debt. As part of that plan, he has been raising cash by selling holdings, including its stake in Hulu and its New York offices. The two deals fetched $3.6 billion in proceeds.

Ryder Cup, PGA Championship Digital Moves From Turner To NBC Sports

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Turner Sports really mailed in the final PGA Championship this year apparently with no plans to renew their deal handling the May majors’ website and after losing the first rounds on TNT to ESPN.

NBC Sports will now handle both Ryder Cup sites (let’s hope we end the silly separate sites) and the PGA Championship’s digital “activations”.

Coverage of the PGA Championship moves to ESPN and remains on CBS starting next year, while the Ryder Cup is on NBC and Golf Channel for the foreseeable future.

For Immediate Release:

PGA OF AMERICA & EUROPEAN TOUR JOIN FORCES WITH NBC SPORTS FOR GLOBAL RYDER CUP DIGITAL PLATFORMS

PGA of America and NBC Sports Partnership Also Includes Marquee PGA Championship Events

ORLANDO, Fla., (July 8, 2019) – A new, global Ryder Cup digital-media relationship has been formed by the PGA of America, European Tour and NBC Sports Group. NBC Sports will develop a multi-platform Ryder Cup presence, including a comprehensive website that serves fans of both the U.S. and European teams and a new app that will enhance both the onsite and overall viewing experience. The long-term relationship begins in advance of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin (Sept 25-27, 2020). The announcement was made today by Jeff Price, Chief Commercial Officer, PGA of America; Rufus Hack, Chief Content Officer, European Tour; and Will McIntosh, Executive Vice President, Digital & Sports Consumer Businesses, NBC Sports Group.

The PGA of America and the European Tour will lead the sales process through their Global Partner Program, and NBC Sports will develop and execute customized digital activations for partners. Digital content for these Ryder Cup platforms will be provided by all three organizations, as well as NBC Sports’ colleagues at Sky Sports, which is owned by Comcast.

“This is an important next step in expanding the global reach of the Ryder Cup,” said Price. “This relationship will allow us to deliver the best possible digital, social and emerging technology experiences to fans around the globe. It will also add significant value for global brands that want to participate in this iconic sporting event as part of their marketing mix.”

“The 2018 Ryder Cup in France saw more than 22 billion social media impressions across the week – the highest in the event’s history – and this exciting partnership with two of our key partners will allow us to expand the reach of our award-winning social and digital content to even greater numbers,” said Hack. “It is fantastic news for fans who follow the contest avidly and also for the many global brands who are associated with one of the world’s greatest sporting occasions.”

“As one of the biggest events on the global stage, the Ryder Cup inspires great pride and is a highlight every two years of NBC Sports’ golf calendar,” said McIntosh. “Building upon our comprehensive news and event coverage, NBC Sports Digital now will super-serve fans with engaging content and interactivity across multiple digital platforms, tapping into the passion NBC Sports and Sky Sports have for this unique event.” 

The Europeans were victorious in 2018 outside Paris with a decisive victory against the United States, extending their dominance on European soil for nearly three decades. The U.S. team, which has won two of the past three Ryder Cups hosted on U.S. soil, will be led in 2020 by Wisconsin native Steve Stricker as U.S. Captain, while Ireland’s Padraig Harrington will captain Europe. Next year’s Ryder Cup will be held at Whistling Straits (Straits Course) in Kohler, Wisconsin from September 25-27, 2020. Upcoming host sites include Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, Rome, Italy in 2022 and Bethpage Black, Farmingdale, New York in 2024. 

PGA OF AMERICA CHAMPIONSHIPS’ DIGITAL PLATFORMS:

Starting in 2020, NBC Sports Digital also will develop, power and operate the back-end service to three of the PGA of America’s championship branded websites, including for the PGA Championship, KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and the PGA Professional Championship. Future PGA branded sites and their related products include:

  • 102nd PGA Championship, TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, May 10-17, 2020

  • KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, Harbor Shores, Benton Harbor, Mich., May 18-24, 2020

  • 53rd PGA Professional Championship, Barton Creek Golf Resort, Austin, April 26-29, 2020

(Mid-Round) Interview: Rahm On Ireland Golf, How Blind Holes Can Simplify Things

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Tim Barter’s mid-round interviews for Sky Sports always remind that players respond well to good questions and that they are capable of sharing wisdom mid-round without threat to world peace or rankings points.

Jon Rahm’s comments about links golf and blind holes added to the immensely enjoyable day one proceedings from the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Rahm’s comment that blind holes simplifying things for the player could be the best reverse thinking and positivity I’ve ever heard from an elite player. Really neat:


Ratings: 1.5 For 2019 Rocket Mortgage Final Round, .6 For U.S. Senior Open

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The numbers sounds pretty low but given that they were competing, the NBA free agency frenzy had drawn a million viewers over to ESPN2, the overnights reported by SBD’s Austin Karp may not be that awful. Nate Lashley had a huge lead in the inaugural Rocket Mortgage and the U.S. Senior Open featured a five-hour final round telecast (why!).

Last week, the Travelers saw steep declines on CBS, reports Paulsen at Sports Media Watch.

Last Sunday’s final round of the PGA Tour Hartford Open earned a 1.4 rating and 2.17 million viewers on CBS, down 30% in both measures from last year (2.0, 3.09M), and down 39% and 38% respectively from 2017 (2.3, 3.50M). It was the lowest rated and least-watched final round of the tournament since 2016 (0.9, 1.42M).

Third round action had a 1.1 (-21%) and 1.53 million (-28%). Lead-in coverage on Golf Channel had a 0.36 (-27%) and 527,000 (-26%) on Saturday and a 0.42 (-19%) and 661,000 (-15%).

Open Coverage Plans: 50 Live Hours, Tom At Turnberry, Irish Flute Takes Over For Bagpipes

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Yanni’s been busy in the studio working with Irish flutists as bagpipers protest outside, as you’ll note in the trailer below. The NBC/Golf Channel plan for the 2019 Open Championship for Immediate Release:      

ORLANDO, Fla., (July 1, 2019) – In partnership with The R&A, NBC Sports Group announced its all-encompassing coverage plans for The 148TH Open, taking place July 18-21 at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. NBC Sports will dedicate 410 total hours surrounding The Open, the most ever, with 200 hours of linear programming coupled with 210 complementary hours of streaming coverage, including featured holes and marquee groups. Spanning from Thursday’s opening tee shot through Sunday’s final putt, the network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage will feature nearly 50 live hours, annually the most live coverage hours from any golf event. 

Having covered The Open for 40 years collectively, Paul Azinger (2005-’15), Nick Faldo (2004-’07 & 2016-’18) and Mike Tirico (1997-2018) will contribute their extensive familiarity in calling golf’s original championship and be joined by the deepest and most-experienced roster of analysts, hosts, reporters and personalities in golf. The network’s live tournament and complementary coverage will feature in-depth perspective on the significance of The Open’s return to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, and for only the second time ever. This year, The Open also is being staged as the final men’s major championship of the year for the first time since 1971.

“The tradition that surrounds golf’s original championship takes on added significance this year with The Open returning to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years,” said Mike McCarley, president, Golf, NBC Sports Group. “Our extensive approach will feature an unprecedented amount of coverage, with live coverage from the first tee shot early Thursday morning through the final putt on Sunday evening. Leading up to The Open, our coverage will help set the stage with not only the competitive storylines, but also the cultural significance of Northern Ireland as host for just the second time in the 148-year history of The Open.”                                                               

Highlights of NBC Sports’ 410 Hours of Coverage Surrounding The 148TH Open: 

  • “Playing Through” Returns: Enhancing both the viewership and commercial experience, NBC Sports’ popular “Playing Through” split-screen commercial format returns for The Open, ensuring viewers don’t miss key stretches of the action during commercial breaks. During NBC Sports’ coverage of The Open at Carnoustie in 2018, an additional 181 shots of live golf were shown because of “Playing Through”.

  • Comprehensive News Coverage All Week: Called “the best 19th hole in television golf” by Golf Digest, Golf Central’s Live From The Open platform will headline nearly 70 hours of comprehensive news coverage from Royal Portrush, beginning Monday, July 15 at 9 a.m. ET. Morning Drive will complement the network’s news presence, including Midnight Drive, the show’s special 90-minute live pre-game show (Midnight-1:30 a.m. ET) that leads directly into the opening tee shot of The 148TH Open with GOLF Channel’s live coverage kicking off at 1:30 a.m. ET on Thursday morning.

  • GOLF Films’ Tom at Turnberry: Premiering on Monday, July 8 at 9 p.m. ET on GOLF Channel, Tom at Turnberry will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Tom Watson’s unthinkable run (at age 59) at winning a sixth Claret Jug. On-site coverage during The Open also will feature a collection of GOLF Films “shorts,” to help tell the stories of The 148TH Open and Royal Portrush.

  • Vantage Point with Mike Tirico Originating from Royal Portrush on Tuesday, July 16: Complementing the network’s Golf Central Live From The Open coverage, a new episode of Vantage Point with Mike Tirico will premiere on Tuesday, July 16 at 9 p.m. ET, originating from Royal Portrush. The show will include a GOLF Films short from NBC Sports’ David Feherty on his native Northern Ireland, in addition to a remarkable story on efforts being made to help curb PTSD through golf at Waterville Golf Links in Ireland. Vantage Point also will welcome additional guests alongside Tirico to offer context surrounding golf’s original championship in its return to Northern Ireland for the first time in nearly seven decades. Next month also will mark Tirico’s 23rd consecutive year covering The Open, and in addition to Vantage Point he’ll also contribute to NBC Sports’ live tournament coverage.

  • The Men in Blazers Show at The Open Returns, Airing on NBCSN, July 17-21: NBC Sports’ critically-acclaimed The Men in Blazers – Roger Bennett and Michael Davies – are set to return to The Open for the second consecutive year, abandoning their Panic Room studio in the “crap part of SoHo” in Manhattan for a distant corner of Royal Portrush for a nightly show, Wednesday, July 17 through Sunday, July 22 on NBCSN. The nightly show will include featured guests, daily highlights, non-traditional stories and cultural elements from The Open presented in the duo’s signature, unconventional style. In addition to the nightly show on NBCSN from Royal Portrush, Rog and Davo will offer their unique takes on The Open through a series of features for NBC Sports’ overarching coverage.

  • David Feherty Vignettes Highlight Unique Aspects of The Open: A native of Northern Ireland, NBC Sports’ David Feherty will deliver a collection of his signature vignettes to highlight the underappreciated and perhaps overlooked aspects of The Open from a local’s perspective. Excursions for Feherty will include an education on the ancient game of Hurling, a sport of Gaelic and Irish origins; a journey to locate a proper source for traditional Irish music; and a morning spent at sea attempting to catch his breakfast. Other content elements will include a story on the 2007 Walker Cup team, and a recollection of Rory McIlroy’s course record-setting 61 at Royal Portrush as a 16-year-old.

  • Chronicles of a Champion Golfer: GOLF Channel will premiere new episodes of Chronicles of a Champion Golfer, a compelling series featuring first-person narratives of past Open champions. Airing on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. ET, upcoming episodes include Jordan Spieth (July 2 – 2017 champion), and Johnny Miller (July 9 – 1976 champion). The full library of Chronicles of a Champion Golfer episodes are currently available on GOLFPASS, featuring Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, among others.

  • Golf’s Greatest Rounds: GOLF Channel will travel back in time with a collection of memorable Open Championships. Golf’s Greatest Rounds will relive the signature moments from past champions Darren Clarke (July 3 – 2011; Royal St. George’s), and Rory McIlroy (July 10 – 2014; Royal Liverpool).

  • AIRTMES FOR THE 148TH OPEN WEEK (All Times EST)

    Monday, July 15

    7-9 a.m.                                   Morning Drive

    9-11 a.m.                                 Golf Central Live From The Open

    11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.                  Sky Sports – On The Range  

    7-9 p.m.                                   Golf Central Live From The Open

    9-10 p.m.                                 The Road to Royal Portrush

    Tuesday, July 16

    6-10 a.m. / Noon-2 p.m.         Golf Central Live From The Open

    10 a.m.-Noon                          Morning Drive

    9-10 p.m.                                 Vantage Point with Mike Tirico

    Wednesday, July 17

    6-10 a.m. / Noon-2 p.m.         Golf Central Live From The Open

    10 a.m.-Noon                          Morning Drive

    11-11:30 p.m.                         The Men in Blazers (NBCSN)

    Thursday, July 18

    Midnight-1:30 a.m.                 Midnight Drive

    1:30 a.m.-4 p.m.                      The Open – First Round

    4-5 p.m.                                   Golf Central Live From The Open

    11-11:30 p.m.                         The Men in Blazers (NBCSN)

    Friday, July 19

    1:30-4 p.m.                             The Open – Second Round

    4-5 p.m.                                   Golf Central Live From The Open

    11-11:30 p.m.                         The Men in Blazers (NBCSN)

    Saturday, July 20

    5-7 a.m.                                   The Open – Third Round

    7-11 a.m.                                 Golf Central Live From The Open

    7 a.m.-3 p.m.                           The Open – Third Round (NBC)

    3-4 p.m.                                   Golf Central Live From The Open

    1-1:30 a.m.                              The Men in Blazers (NBCSN, Saturday Overnight)

    Sunday, July 21

    4-7 a.m.                                   The Open – Final Round      

    7-9:45 a.m.                              Golf Central Live From The Open

    7 a.m.-2 p.m.                           The Open – Final Round (NBC)

    2-4 p.m.                                   Golf Central Live From The Open

    10-10:30 p.m.                         The Men in Blazers (NBCSN)