The Master’s Global Audience
By Michael Tange
The Masters’ broadcast produced by its hosts Augusta National and their partners, CBS & ESPN offers some of the best live sports entertainment every year. Live sports viewing however is, as it always will be, governed by the best available screen. Golf is no different.
In that respect, Augusta National and their partner IBM have done a terrific job of extending the reach and engagement around their event through Masters.com. Indeed, looking to online, during the first two rounds in particular the best available screen for so many fans is their computer or mobile device. The Masters’ digital experience has over the past few years become second to none.
Over the weekend, the digital presence extends the window for viewers by granting them access to live content before the CBS broadcast. As a source of content to accompany the television broadcast, viewers can follow featured groupings and specific iconic parts of the course meaning that globally, the provision of this content becomes relevant across the whole 24 hour window.
From a research standpoint, those interested in The Masters index significantly higher than the average sports fan in their propensity to access sports information via mobile devices, digital and social media. This is a consistent trend across the 33 markets Repucom surveys annually. This is due in large part to their access to technology and income to purchase, but it aligns with the strategy Augusta National has employed to further engage with fans beyond the first screen and to fully incorporate digital and mobile devices.
For both online consumption and televised broadcast, the US is still the dominant single market. For international markets, viewership is dictated by factors including the general domestic interest in golf, whether the broadcast appears on a terrestrial or cable network and the time of broadcast. The factor that creates an outlier in audience viewership is the performance of local stars.
Adam Scott’s effect on ratings in Australia in 2013 is a perfect example of this. These spikes in viewership have a long tail and drive sustained higher interest in events, as seen for The PGA Championship in South Korea after Y.E Yang’s historic victory.
Yang’s win marks the continual growth of the sport in Asia, something recognized certainly by Augusta National, as with all of golf’s governing bodies.
As part of an effort to connect the Masters with the region, Augusta National, in concert with the R&A, golf’s ruling body throughout the world (except the United States and Mexico), has created a path to participation through the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship. Guan Tianlang, the 14 year old Chinese prodigy of 2013’s Masters being a product of this very initiative.
A Chinese born golfer competing for the title brings the possibility of enormous audience growth in that market for The Masters. For an example of the impact that can be seen, look no further than what The Australian Open has experienced through the success of female Chinese Tennis star, Li Na. Reaching the Final in 2013, her win in 2014 averaged 16 million viewers on CCTV5. Time zones favour this event, but nevertheless this is an indication of just how important China remains as the largest frontier for the golf.