NBC golf expects another winning year, with ratings draw Tiger Woods back on the tour after losing years to injury.
Last year, Golf Channel tied its most-watched year ever in Total Audience Delivery, the stat used by NBCUniversal to measure audiences across platforms, up 7% from 2017. The previous record was 2013, when Woods won five PGA Tour events.
Golf Channel got a boost from Tiger’s run at the end of last season, according to Mike McCarley, NBC Sports Group president of golf. “In Tiger’s absence, you had a lot of younger stars of the sport step up and find themselves in the spotlight,” McCarley said. “Then Tiger came back and you’ve got the biggest star in the sport facing off against the players who grew up idolizing him.”
NBC was able to cash in on Tiger’s comeback last year, and this year should be more of the same. “You’re in for a leaderboard that’s probably more star-packed than it has been in years,” McCarley said.
Golf viewing should get a boost from a schedule that loaded its big events from March through August to keep interest high and avoid competition from other sports in the fall. In the fall, NBC will be able to televise events on the European Tour.
Golf Channel has also beefed up its live programming on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays by adding prestigious college events to its schedule leading up to the NCAA golf championship.
The year also marks Paul Azinger taking over the role of lead analyst from Johnny Miller, who retired after years of being convinced to stick around longer than he really wanted, according to McCarley.
With Azinger, “what you see is what you get,” McCarley said. “There’s a lack of a filter between the brand and the mouth a lot of times. That’s a good thing for viewers because at the end of the day you’re here to serve them and it give them the best seat in the house when you’re sitting there with one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet about that sport and someone who’s unafraid to share their opinions with you.”
This year, Golf Channel will also be integrating more closely with Sky, the European media company acquired by Comcast.
“You’re going to start to see programming that aired in the U.K. in the states and programming from the states, you’ll see in the U.K., McCarley said. “There will be a lot of blending of talent, blending of production and sharing of resources.”