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Viamedia - CableTV Advertising - The Golf Channel

Quick: What’s the first sport that comes to mind when you think of cable television?

Given the sheer amount of on-air cable content for baseball, football and basketball (professional and collegiate), chances are you’d pick one of these three.

But there’s another sport that can surely hold its own for the amount of coverage devoted by cable – and that would be professional golf (both the men’s PGA and the ladies’ LPGA Tours), not to mention the myriad of tournaments held outside the United States.

While viewers can readily find tournament golf on several cable networks (such as ESPN, ESPN2, NBCSN and TNT), there is one cable network in particular that carries an astonishing amount of golf.

You guessed it: the Golf Channel.

Based on a Viamedia analysis of Rentrak data for tournaments carried by Golf Channel (both original and re-airings), the number of hours devoted to tourney golf is simply staggering. Two years ago (2013), the Golf Channel aired over 3,600 hours of golf. In 2014, that figure increased by 10% to over 4,000 hours! That comes to (on average) 11 hours a day, every day of the year:

The Golf Channel ratings - Advertising

Just looking at the chart above reminds me of the Jimmy Buffet-esque saying, “Somewhere in the world it’s always summer (or just plain warm).”

How else to explain the number of hours we’re seeing, for example, in December? Among the tournaments the Golf Channel covered were the Indonesia Open (in Jakarta); the Emirates Australian Open (in Sydney) and the Alfred Dunhill Championship (in Mpumalanga, Eastern Transvaal, South Africa.) Not to mention the numerous tourneys in Florida, Arizona and Southern California.

It was once said that, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” But, today, the truth of the matter is, “The sun never sets on the game of golf.”

“Hometown Favorites”

Last spring, we documented a “home field” advantage for golf – not the one we normally associate with “rooting for the home team”, but rather a tremendous “hometown” spike in viewing based on the location of the U.S. PGA Golf Championship.

One example will suffice.

Playing in 2013 at the Oak Hill Country Club in the town of Pittsford, New York (a suburb of Rochester), Jason Dufner won his first Major ever with a 2-stroke victory over Jim Furyk, making up for a heart-breaking loss in a 2011 playoff.

Over the prior three U.S. PGA Championships, total viewing in Rochester was just lukewarm, capturing slightly above the total U.S. ratings in 2010 (107 Index) and 2012 (108 Index), and viewing significantly below the average in 2011 (75 Index). But hometown viewing heated up in 2013, with ratings rising dramatically – three times the national average (302 Index):

Viamedia CableTV Advertising - The Golf Channel

The question we had: Would a similar pattern hold up again (in 2014) when the 96th U.S PGA Championship came to the Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky?

Did it ever!

From 2010 – 2013, Louisville viewing to the U.S. PGA Championship indexed anywhere from 45% – 85% above the national average. Clearly, a very strong market for the tournament (and most likely golf in general.)

But “strong” is a relative word.

When the Championship came to Louisville in 2014, the DMA achieved a Day One rating of 1.7 – that was well over 500% higher than the national average:

Viamedia - The Golf Channel - CableTV Ratings

This August, the tournament returns to the Whistling Straits golf destination in Kohler, Wisconsin which sits right on the cusp of two television markets, Milwaukee and Green Bay-Appleton. You can bank on it that ratings will soar far above the national average for these two DMAs, just like they did when the PGA Championship was held there in 2010.

Local Cable Advertising Demand

Over the past two years we have seen a surge in local cable advertising for golf programming, with 370 clients investing in well over 16,000 spots across 53 Viamedia markets. That comes to an average of 44 local spots per client! (Source: B.I.G.SM   database — Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

Our ability to meet the demand of our local clients is due to the remarkable array of golf tournaments that appear on cable. Over the past two years, we have placed our clients’ commercials in 120 different golf tournaments played here in the United States and around the world:

The Golf Channel Cable TV Ratings

If we confine our analysis to the Viamedia markets that exhibited golf advertising over the past two years, our clients upped their investments by nearly 20%, driven primarily by a 14% increase in the number of 30-second units:

CableTV Advertising - The Golf Channel

While there’s no surprise that Automotive is the leading local cable advertising category for golf (39%), it should be noted that the Sports & Outdoor Recreation category captures 25% of all spending — a share of revenue figure that far exceeds the low, single-digit share for the category company-wide:

Advertising on CableTV - The Golf Channel - Viamedia

As I write this blog, the mid-March sun here in New York has finally made some headway on the frozen snow pack that has covered our local courses, so while they await the final melt, many of our local duffers are getting their golf “fix” with the numerous tournaments currently running on the Golf Channel.

And, then, by Spring some of the other cable networks will kick in with coverage of their own, such as ESPN in April (the Masters Tournament); Fox Sports 1 in June (the U.S. Open); ESPN in July (the Open Championship); and TNT in August (the PGA Championship.) And linking these together with a different tournament practically every week of the year is the Golf Channel.

In other words, enough cable content to satisfy the most inveterate golf fans and the local advertisers who want to reach them.

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– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia