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Tiger Effect on Masters ratings was big, but blunted by weather

Daniel Roberts

Tiger Woods won The Masters on Sunday in dramatic fashion, and fans were glued to their televisions—if they got up early enough to see it.

CBS Sports says the final round of the 2019 Masters was its “highest-rated morning golf broadcast” in 34 years, with a 7.7 overnight rating and 21 household share (it means 21% of all U.S. households with TVs were tuned in).

The key word there is “morning.” Due to predictions of severe weather, the final round on Sunday was moved up to start much earlier than normal. The first group of golfers teed off at 7:30 am EST and the CBS broadcast began at 9 am EST; normally the first group starts at 10 am and the CBS broadcast does not begin until 2 pm. Some golf fans tweeted that they went about their Sunday morning unaware that the tournament was well underway.

That early start time blunted the well-documented “Tiger Effect” on ratings.

A huge morning for CBS

Sunday’s 7.7 overnight rating was down 11% from last year’s 8.7, but up from 2017 (7.6). The live broadcast averaged 10.8 million viewers, and peaked with a 12.1 rating and 28 share between 2:15 and 2:30 pm EST, when Woods was finishing his round. That’s the highest peak rating for The Masters since 2013. And the 28 share is impressive in any context. But the rating would have been even stronger if the broadcast had been at the usual afternoon time.

If you need even further evidence of the Tiger Effect on golf ratings, look at the numbers for CBS’s “encore presentation” of the final round. It earned a 3.4 rating and 8 share, the third-highest rated golf broadcast on any network this year, behind only the live third round and live final round of The Masters.

In other words, the re-air of a round that already happened beat all live broadcasts of any other golf tournament this year so far.

CBS Sports also says this was its most-streamed Masters ever, with 1 billion total minutes streamed and an average per-minute audience of 447,000 (across the CBS Sports website and mobile app and The Masters website and mobile app).

Tiger Woods reacts as he wins the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

One problem with the Tiger Effect

The Tiger Effect extends to merchandise sales. PGA Tour Superstore says it saw a 68% boost in online sales on Saturday and 66% boost on Sunday. GolfTown says orders for Tiger’s trademark red mock turtleneck shirt crashed its web site.

All of this is unquestionably positive for Nike, which outfits him, and for TaylorMade, which provides his clubs, and for Bridgestone, which provides his balls. And it might look like there’s no downside for broadcasters. When Tiger is in the hunt on the final day of a tournament, viewers tune in.

But the Tiger Effect also underscores a fact that those in the golf world have tried to downplay for the past few years: Woods is the only person with the ability to bring non-golf-fans to the sport. For all the talk about exciting young stars like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler, no golfer brings the eyeballs that Tiger can. No one comes close. The difference between a tournament with Tiger in the mix and one without him is night and day, judged by almost any metric.

Golf legend Greg Norman told Yahoo Finance in October that Tiger’s comeback is “good for the game of golf, there’s no question. But I hope they don’t put all their eggs in one basket again and just be all Tiger, and forget about all this other wonderful, fantastic talent... It’s not just about the one player.”

After Tiger’s dramatic win at The Masters, Norman in hindsight looks like a person in denial. At the moment, the excitement around pro golf is indeed about one single player. As the former CEO of Bridgestone Golf told Yahoo Finance in 2017, Tiger Woods “transcends” the sport.