Someone e-mailed to ask if Tiger’s presence in the Masters really mattered since the “beloved Masters is a tradition unlike any other.”
It may be a tradition unlike any other, but at least in recent times without Tiger it’s…less traditional.
Love Tiger Woods? Hate Tiger Woods? Those might be reasonable questions to ask. What’s not in question is that on average you’re more likely to watch golf if he’s playing.
It might seem like only yesterday that he was beating Rocco Mediate in a playoff, on a bum leg no less, to win the U.S. Open. But that was his last major championship win and it has been nearly 7 years.
But even the recent, erratic, no championships vintage Tiger Woods is still very meaningful to the TV ratings. In 2013 the first Thursday of afternoon coverage of the Masters on ESPN averaged 2.85 million viewers. Last year Woods had back surgery and missed the Masters and ESPN’s first Thursday of coverage was down 30% to 2.01 million. But the Friday coverage where ESPN averaged 4.196 million in 2013 fell to 2.465 million a drop of 41%.
In 2013, with Tiger in the mix through the weekend, CBS was a press release issuing machine. Some 44 million watched at least a part of the weekend coverage (the Saturday round averaged 8.5 million viewers and the Sunday round averaged 14.7 million) and it had the second best viewership since 2001.
In 2014: no Tiger, no ratings press releases from CBS. The final round coverage had its lowest household rating in 34 years and its worst Saturday rating dating back to 1957. The Saturday round averaged 5.9 million viewers and the Sunday round averaged 11 million viewers.
People will definitely still watch the Masters even without Tiger, just not as many. We wish CBS luck finding the next Tiger Woods, they’ll need it.