Golf Channel: Ratings increase for Tour opener

Jonathan Byrd walks down the 18th hole during the third round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation course on January 8, 2011 in Kapalua, Hawaii.

Jonathan Byrd walks down the 18th hole during the third round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation course on January 8, 2011 in Kapalua, Hawaii.

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HONOLULU – With the PGA Tour putting together a strategy for its next TV deal with the networks, a 38 percent increase in viewership for the first event of the season has to be good news to commissioner Tim Finchem.

According to Golf Channel, the four-round average rating of last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions was 0.6, or 593,000 total viewers. That marked a 38 percent increase over last year, and is the highest event delivery since 2008. The 555,000 viewers for the opening round represent the highest season-debut audience in the four-plus years that Golf Channel has televised Tour events.

Of course, it is only one event, not a trend, but considering that it was Wild Card weekend for the NFL, and the players missing on Maui included Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, it is still a big positive for the PGA Tour.

“Television is a major part of our business structure,” Finchem said last week at Kapalua. “We have a lot of other revenue streams today that we didn’t have 15 years ago, but still very important. That is exactly what we’re looking for.

"As I’ve said several times the last two to three years, we don’t see our rate of growth the next 10 years the way the last 10 years go, but we are looking for growth. We want to continue to make progress, both with regard to bringing athlete compensation more in direction of team sports to some extent, but also we want to continue to make progress in the charitable bottom line for our tournaments. Both of those require financial success with anything we’re selling or marketing, and that starts with television. It’s a major barometer. It will have a lot to do with whether we grow, for sure.”

It’s expected that the PGA Tour will start negotiating a new TV deal with the networks sometime in the third quarter and have a deal consummated by the end of the year.

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