Golf Channel, benefiting from cross-promotion on NBC, rode the wave of 40 rounds of improved Nielsen play with the PGA Tour to shoot its most-watched first quarter ever.
Network officials said the network holed 25.24 million unique viewers during the first quarter, topping its prior best, the initial span of 2009, when Tiger Woods ruled the sport's roost.
During first quarter 2011, spanning from Dec. 27, 2010 through March 27, Golf averaged 158,000 viewers in primetime, up 23% from 128,000 in the corresponding span in 2010. Gauged on a total-day basis, the NBCU network averaged 101,000 watchers, 46% more than the 69,000 in the first quarter of 2010.
As mentioned above, all 40 of the PGA rounds Golf has televised in 2011 gained Nielsen ground last year. Coverage of the Arnold Palmer Invitational on March 24 ranked as the second most-watched first-round in the history of the event second only to its 2009 coverage, generating a 1.1 household rating and over 1 million viewers, 89% above the same round in 2010, when Woods did not participate. The following day Golf's score rose 34% over 2010, with a 0.9 rating and 826,000 viewers.
Weekend lead-in coverage notched its highest viewership of the year leading into "Golf Channel on NBC." The March 26 telecast (1.0 / 1.02 million) marked the highest Saturday lead-in viewership since the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2008 (1.2 /1.14 million), while the March 27 presentation (1.0 / 1.06 million) registered the highest Sunday lead-in viewership since the 2009 Buick Open (1.2 /1.16 million).
Elsewhere, Golf says it's hitting the fairway with its new morning show, Morning Drive, which debuted in January, and has rung up 50% time-slot advances.
Flagship news program Golf Central has recorded an 80% gain compared to the first quarter of 2010, led by the 335,000 viewers who tuned in the March 24 edition at 6 p.m.
"Golf Channel on NBC" analyst Johnny Miller joined host Michael Breed as a special guest on The Golf Fix on March 21 at Bay Hill Club and Lodge, leading to the highest-rated episode this year. Moreover, the service's instructional fare, Golf Channel Academy, Golf Fix and School of Golf, has seen a 22% viewership growth in 2011.
The March 21 edition of travel special GolfNow, centering on Orlando, generated its highest-rated premiere for a network travel show since February 2008, according to channel officials.
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