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With Declining Viewing Figures Is It Time For Golf Broadcast Changes

By: | Mon 01 Jul 2024

View From The Fairway by Derek Clements

Golf Fans

THE season’s fourth major is just around the corner. Not that you would know it if you are a regular viewer of the BBC.

As we have reported here before, global viewing figures for our sport are in freefall. It is all to easy to blame the rift in the sport caused by LIV for this and while that has most certainly played some part in the declining figures, I really don’t buy the claims that it is the root cause.

We continue to live in uncertain economic times. Most of us are now watching every penny we spend as we struggle to make ends meet.

You may have missed the announcement that Caffeine TV, LIV Golf’s streaming partner, has gone to the wall. Funded by Andreessen Horowitz and the Murdoch family, it abruptly closed, citing poor profits just months after securing LIV’s digital broadcast rights.

“All good things come to an end,” a message on the Caffeine TV website read. “We’re at the point where we are still not quite profitable, so we’ve made the decision to end the service as of June 26th as we figure out our next steps.”

Caffeine TV claimed that during LIV’s tournament in Jeddah it had two million viewers tuning in. It is fair to say that those claims were met with widespread cynicism. To put these figures in some kind of perspective, two million viewers tuned into the first couple of rounds of the US Open on NBC. Draw your own conclusions.

The truth is that despite all the hype, LIV’s viewing figures have been shocking. You might have thought that in this day and age things would be different for a streaming service. Not so.

And it highlights a big problem for LIV. Professional sport needs profitable rights deals to thrive, and despite all the Saudi money being pumped in, LIV simply doesn’t have that. I am no accountant but I do know that without a solid media rights agreement to pay its bills, it will be hard for LIV to ever be more than a loss leader for the Saudi PIF.

If LIV has any hope of turning that around they need to get into bed with the likes of Netflix, Apple TV or Amazon.

Netflix did a superb job with the first two series of Full Swing and it is known that they are looking at live sport as a realistic expansion option.

Despite retiring in January I have so far retained my Sky Sports subscription but I am becoming increasingly resentful about the amount of money I am being asked to fork out every month. As our recent survey into this subject confirmed, many Sky subscribers are deeply unhappy with the quality of the golf coverage we are subjected to.

Survey Data - What Is Turning Golf Fans Off

  • 47% cost of subscription being too high.
  • 34% current divide within the golf world.
  • 26% game less interesting than it used to be.
  • 20% televised coverage not good enough.
  • 13% not enough interest in individual players.


Survey Data - What Do Fans Want To See

  • 54% want to be able to hear more caddie-player conversations.
  • 50% want less talking from commentators and more golf shots.
  • 38% want more on-course analysis.
  • 27% want more behind-the-scenes coverage.
  • 26% want more more instruction led content.
  • 24% want more content and interaction via player microphones.

I also deeply resent the fact that on many occasions Sky commentary team are quite clearly not at the venue but are locked away in a studio somewhere in Britain.

I long for a return of the good old days when the BBC routinely covered all four majors and a number of European Tour events, including the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Watching uninterrupted coverage of The Open on the BBC was one of the highlights of my year. And then it stopped.

The BBC has not shown a single “live” golf shot in 2024. And that means that in households that do not subscribe to Sky Sports there is not a cat’s chance in hell of a young boy or girl being enthralled by a golf tournament and wanting to take up the game. Nick Faldo, a six-time major champion, badgered his parents into buying him a set of clubs after watching Jack Nicklaus win The Masters while watching it on the BBC with his father.

I hope that Netflix is able to muscle into the golf broadcast market for two main reasons - it is cheaper than Sky and there are no adverts.

One of the things I find most frustrating about watching any live sport on Sky is the endless ad breaks, usually featuring betting websites and apps. Is it any wonder that we have a gambling problem in this country when it is constantly being rammed down our throats.

And every 12 months or so my wife and I need to threaten to quit our subscription when Sky impose yet another price hike. We then have to get on the phone, speak to an adviser, tell him or her we are thinking of leaving and end up with yet another “special offer”. Only for the same process to be repeated the next year.

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