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Turner bets PGA feud between DeChambeau and Koepka will draw viewers


Bryson DeChambeau poses for photos during Capital One’s The Match: Champions For Change – Previews at The Reserve at Moonlight Basin on July 5, 2021 in Big Sky, MT.

Dylan Buell | Getty Images

After a day that families will spend trying to avoid politics and avoid fighting, Turner Sports is counting on conflict and drama to draw viewers to its Black Friday golf showcase.

Turner’s network, TNT, will air on November 26 the fifth installment of The Match 5, a one-on-one match between PGA Tour golfers Bryson DeChambeau, 28, and Brooks Koepka, 31, who have become passionate rivals over the past two years. . The event begins at 4 p.m. EST.

The game of golf made for television began in 2018, when Tiger Woods played against Phil Mickelson. The two PGA icons helped AT & T’s WarnerMedia-owned Turner Sports draw the most watched golf game in cable history last year, amid a pandemic and a hiatus extended in live sports. This year, there will be plenty of fans on the course and at home.

In TNT’s 30-second promotional video, each golfer stages the game with Queen’s “You Are My Best Friend” in the background. In one clip, DeChambeau trains and Koepka’s head becomes the ball. After blowing up the blow, DeChambeau says, “I’m coming for you, Brooks.”

At the end of the ad, DeChambeau says, “Friendsgiving is going to be a little different this year. “

“They know what’s going on and there is a rivalry out there,” said Craig Barry, executive vice president and chief content officer of Turner Sports, admitting he laughed when he saw the video. “I think they got into the idea of ​​having fun with it.”

The event looks like a championship boxing match. It takes place in Las Vegas at the Wynn Golf Club, which typically costs $ 550 per person, and features a 12-hole game, instead of the normal 18-hole course. The golfer who wins the most holes wins the exhibition.

Tiger Woods of the United States lines up a putt on the 16th green during the 2018 PGA Championship Final at Bellerive Country Club on August 12, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Streeter Lecka | PGA of America | PGA of America | Getty Images

On the PGA Tour, and out of international competition, DeChambeau and Koepka are tied for career wins with eight. Koepka is ahead of total profits, from $ 36.7 million to around $ 26 million for DeChambeau.

Their feud began in 2019 in a dispute over the pace of play and Koepka’s criticism that golfers like DeChambeau are taking too long between shots. Things turned sour at the PGA Championship in May, during an interview with Koepka that went viral on Twitter.

With the camera rolling, DeChambeau walked over to Koepka and seemed to say something in a low voice. Koepka was distracted and threw a dramatic look at the camera, catching the attention of the sports world.

Barry expects the tension to spark competitive play for viewers to soak up the day after Thanksgiving.

“What gets lost is who the best golfer is,” he said. “I think these two go head-to-head is an interesting tale.”

In a separate promo for the game, Turner filmed DeChambeau hitting a ball from the roof of the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas and onto the golf course, where Koepka’s face was painted as a target.

“I just nailed Brooks’ big head,” DeChambeau said after hitting the shot, which was over 500 yards away. It took him several attempts to hit the target. “Now it’s time to go and fight in a real game,” said DeChambeau.

Turner Sports has found a successful formula with the format.

In May 2020, Woods and Mickelson teamed up with National Football League favorites Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to play Game 2. It generated the highest golf odds in cable history with 5.8 million. viewers and raised $ 20 million for Covid-19 relief.

Tiger Woods and former NFL player Peyton Manning celebrate the loss of Phil Mickelson and NFL player Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the 18th green in Game: Champions For Charity at Medalist Golf Club on May 24, 2020 at Hobe Sound, Florida.

Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

Barry said that figure approached $ 40 million as Turner Sports aired two more episodes of the game of golf, which raised funds for historically black colleges and universities last November.

This week’s game will again feature challenge holes for charity dollars, including the ninth and eleventh holes. Each is worth up to $ 2 million for a one-shot hole.

The Monday Night Golf experience

Golf match play has been around for decades.

The historic Skins Game ran from 1983-2008, providing golf fans with a high-profile event to watch in November or December after the PGA Tour season ended.

Woods then tried his hand at made-for-television golf, teaming up with ABC to launch an annual game in 1999. ABC called the Monday Night Golf program, an attempt to emulate the National Football League’s Monday Night Football, a eternal audience crusher.

The first event in 1999 was called “Showdown at Sherwood” and pitted Woods, then 23, against David Duval. Woods won the match and received $ 1.1. million. The Battle of Bighorn in 2000 paired Woods with longtime rival Sergio Garcia and was perhaps the most memorable Monday night golf game. Garcia beat Woods, taking home $ 1.1 million in cash prizes.

Tiger Woods, left, and Sergio Garcia are interviewed by the press on August 28, 2000 during the “Battle at Bighorn” at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, California.

Chris Weeks | Getty Images

Battle at Bighorn drew an audience rating of 7.6 at that time. Of the estimated 105 million households equipped with televisions in 2000, more than 7 million watched the game.

But Monday Night Golf started to sink in the public as the novelty wore off.

The second Battle at Bighorn in 2001, starring Woods, Duval, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, lost 19.7 percent viewership. Over the next two years, ratings dropped to 5.1 and 4.6, respectively.

The event was scrapped in 2005, just as Monday Night Football moved to ABC’s sister network ESPN, which took over with an annual deal of $ 1.1 billion.

“They made it feel special,” said Barry, referring to the early years of Monday Night Golf. “This is the hardest part of building a franchise, is continually giving people a reason to watch.”

Where Battle at Bighorn struggled was that it “didn’t feel as special as the first two times,” he said. “I think we focused on creating a narrative where we felt every game was special on its own.”

Brooks Koepka plays his shot from the 14th tee during the second round of the Houston Open at Memorial Park Golf Course on November 12, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Andy Lyon | Getty Images

How much is The Match worth?

Turner hasn’t revealed how much he’s spending on The Match. Last year’s second installment with Woods drew $ 5.8 million in ad spend across four WarnerMedia networks, according to ad technology company MediaRadar. Sponsors include Capital One.

Bryan Zuriff, co-creator of The Match, told CNBC last year that “the program’s advertising dollars are more than our expenses.”

For 2021, Turner negotiated advertising deals internally, used Brady’s production company, and turned to Woods’ agency Excel Sports to help coordinate event operations at the Wynn.

The third event of the Match in 2020 averaged around a million viewers, and the fourth, which brought together DeChambeau, Mickelson, Brady and fellow NFL star Aaron Rodgers in July of this year, averaged some. 1.9 million. This topped other cable golf events, including ESPN’s coverage of the 2021 PGA Championship, which averaged 1.3 million viewers in May.

“I think it will get a salable and compelling demo, and I think the sponsors will pay to reach that market,” said former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson.

Will Funk, executive vice president of sports partnerships at Turner Sports, called The Match a “proven brand.”

“I think we’ve shown that we can grow our audience and provide sponsors, business partners and revenue in conjunction with that,” he said. “It’s a very good deal for us.”

WarnerMedia will also use The Match to promote its new CNN + streaming service, which is slated to launch in 2022.

Bryson DeChambeau of Team USA and Brooks Koepka of Team USA attend the 43rd Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony at Whistling Straits on September 23, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin.

Andrew Redington | Getty Images

The event will air on WarnerMedia’s TBS, HLN and TruTV, as well as TNT, and some material will air on Bleacher Report. As with its previous games, the network will use cameras on golf carts and have microphones on DeChambeau, Koepka and their caddies.

“It makes it more appealing to people,” said Pete Kowalski, former communications manager at the United States Golf Association. “They want to hear what a player is saying when they think of a shot. They want to see the little things.”

Barry said Turner could compare the value of entertainment to recent events where golfers have teamed up and chatted with each other.

“It’s going to open a whole new door for fans to participate in these conversations,” Barry said. “It will be an interesting case study for us.”

Viewers will enjoy additional entertainment from the broadcast booth, as NBA legend Charles Barkley joins Mickelson. Both are known to stir up scum.

“Both of these guys have an interesting track record of commentary and dislike – some can be imaginary, some can be real,” Pilson said. “But I think the public will be curious what these guys can say to each other.”

Kowalski, a self-proclaimed golf “purist”, admitted he was never a fan of golf games made for television. He said the intrigue around this particular competition could have blurred, in part because DeChambeau and Koepka were Ryder Cup teammates last September and publicly played down any tension.

“I’m not sure the quarrel is as much of a quarrel as it has been claimed,” Kowalski said.

Beyond gambling, DeChambeau and Koepka both benefit from exposure to sports. The PGA Tour has a new Player Impact Program, an incentive plan that distributes $ 40 million among top golfers who help build the brand and attract audiences to the events.

Barry said Friday’s game will give Turner a good idea of ​​the value of this type of event going forward.

“It will tell us if this format is interesting for the fans,” Barry added. “And if it’s interesting for the fan, it becomes more interesting for us.”

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