Golf’s Television Networks Profit from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson: A Fan’s View

A Look at the Economics of Golf and Television

Professional athletes are known for drawing large salaries, and they often take heat from fans about it. Just a few weeks ago, fans were shocked by Tiger Woods' $2 million appearance fee for Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. However, our attention, as fans, should be focused on the companies really profiting from these professional golfers: the golf television networks.

At the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, everyone was watching Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson play golf. Television ratings for the event soared. CBS, which aired the competition, enjoyed Pebble Beach's highest ratings since 1997. They were at 5.1, which is 96% higher than last year. As people tuned in to see golf balls go "plunk" into holes, CBS executives were hearing "ch-ching;" their profits were increasing.

Even NBC, which is the other station on television for golf, was smiling. Pebble Beach is one of the earlier events on the 2012 PGA Tour, and it was the first that featured close play between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. If the two ever meet again this season, golf television ratings will soar. Even the possibility of this happening allows CBS and NBC to increase rates for advertisers in future 2012 PGA events.

Tiger Woods will likely appear in at least four events during the next two months. He is expected to play World Golf Championships (WCG) Accenture Match Play Championship, WCG Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters. Tiger Woods may also attend Honda Classic. Most of these events will be on NBC's network television. Golf fans will be tuning in to watch Tiger Woods. If he again meets Mickelson in the final round of an event, NBC executives will be doing back flips.

Fans may complain about large purses or appearance fees in golf, but television networks are equally guilty. Whether you find these million-dollar payments repulsive or appropriate is not my argument. I want to see PGA golf players and golf's television networks held to the same bar. When Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson earns a million, someone else is profiting too.

Sources:

Tiger Woods and Golf Television Ratings

Scott Brodie enjoys playing golf. He has reviewed golf courses and writes on PGA and LPGA news.

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