Continuing its rating momentum under the auspices of the NBC Sports Group, Golf Channel matched its highest-rated year in 2014 with the total-day measure and was the top television network relative to affluent watchers in both total-day and primetime.
Golf Channel averaged a 0.11 household coverage ranking over the 24-hour measure equaling its performance during 2013, according to Nielsen data, translating into 98,000 watchers, second only to the 108,000 the service garnered the prior year.
Since becoming part of the NBC Sports Group in 2011, Golf Channel has registered its best four-year stretch, upping its ratings 57% and total-day viewership 40% over that period.
During 2014, NBC Sports Group reached an unmatched 79 million viewers via “Golf Channel on NBC” broadcasts and Golf Channel, which aired more live tournament action than all other U.S. networks combined. The network, co-founded by Arnold Palmer as the first-single sports channel, will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Jan. 17.
“Golf Channel has maintained its momentum over the past four years. We matched 2013 on a ratings basis, even though the sport’s biggest star, Tiger Woods, was sidelined for the bulk of the year,” said president Mike McCarley. “The results are a testament to our focus across all aspects of the game.”
Measured against a base-line level from 2010, Golf Channel saw its tournament coverage ratings grow 22% and its audience expand 16% through 2014. News program Golf Central (pictured), scored 83% and 76% amelioration, while Morning Drive, which expanded to seven-day schedule for the first time last year, soared 229% and 227%, respectively.
Instructional fare jumped 50% in rating and 37% in audience over the four-year span, as other original programming increased 17% and 9%.
The network is also producing quality programming, recording the most Sports Emmy nominations in its history: outstanding sports personality, studio host: David Feherty; outstanding sports journalism: In Play with Jimmy Roberts; outstanding technical team remote: Golf Channel on NBC (The Players); and outstanding editing: PGA Tour Teases.
“The high-quality of production is reflected in the record number of Emmys. The awards recognize the quality of what our viewers are seeing,” said McCarley, “and the programming is attracting a very affluent audience.”
In 2014, Golf Channel stood as the most-affluent ad-supported network for median household income and percentage of $100,000+ household income audience delivery (38% earned $75,000 or more) ahead of Fox Business Network. In primetime, Golf was first for median household income and percentage of $100,000 household income delivery (44% had $81,600 or more), topping NBC Sports Network.
Digitally, more than 54 million golf fans visited Golf Channel platforms, which holed best-ever metrics for GolfChannel.com traffic, Golf Life Extra Streaming, mobile app usage and social media followers.
Both GolfChannel.com and the Golf Channel mobile app posted their best year in 2014, relative to video starts and page views. Live streaming app Golf Live Extra drew 92.5 million total minutes streamed and was up 20% in starts year-over-year. Moreover in 2014, Golf Channel’s suite of four mobile apps recorded a 28% rise in unique visitors.
Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, McCarley said Golf Channel remains committed to growth: “We have to continue work on things we do well.”
That will include the addition of more original programming, like Arnie, the three-part documentary about the legendary Palmer, which drew almost 2 million viewers during its premiere week and helped drive the network’s most-watched April ever. The premiere of Arnie was Golf Channel’s most-watched and highest-rated original production ever, averaging 471,000 viewers and a 0.39 coverage rating.
McCarley also pointed to the 2014 debut of the men’s NCAA Men’s Golf Championship, which reached more than 2.2 million viewers and averaged 250,000, a 50% rise over the prior-year time period. The NCAA Women’s Golf Championship joins the network’s lineup this May.
Elsewhere, the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship National Finals averaged 315,000 viewers and reached 2.1 million watchers overall. A joint initiative founded by the Masters Tournament Foundation, PGA of America and United States Golf Association, the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free nationwide junior golf development competition that concludes at Augusta National Golf Club on the Sunday prior to The Masters.
“With the NCAA championships and the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, Golf Channel is making an investment in the future of the sport,” said McCarley. “We want to give the audience a look at the players who will become mainstays of the pro tours.”