7:00am PT by Marisa Guthrie
Tiger Woods Drives Interest in NBC Sports' British Open Coverage
Tiger Woods’ dramatic win at The Masters last April (and a less dramatic, but top 10 finish, at the Memorial Tournament) is good news for NBC Sports Group's coverage of the historic 148th Open Championship, set to kick off July 18 at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
Woods, who has been waking up at 1 a.m. ET in order to prepare his body for the time difference, is expected to land at the top of the leaderboard at 16-1 (even if Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka are the odds-on favorites at 8-1). NBC Sports is dedicating 410 hours of coverage to the event, the most ever, with 200 on linear and 210 on digital.
“We can always attribute quite a few eyeballs to Tiger,” notes Mike McCarley, president of golf at NBC Sports.
More than 37 million people watched the final 18 holes of The Masters on CBS last April. That was up 41 percent from the previous year’s live coverage and the most watched Masters on Sunday in six years.
NBC Sports will have 49 hours of live programing across its linear platforms including NBC, NBCSN and Golf Channel, which will have a 51 percent live schedule next week. Dan Hicks, Paul Azinger, Nick Faldo and Mike Tirico will anchor coverage with commentary from David Feherty. NBC will carry the final round live Sunday, when the winner will be awarded the tournament’s famed claret jug.
The location also gives this year’s tournament an added dose of pop culture relevancy. The Open, the game’s oldest tournament, is returning to the coast of Ireland for the first time in 68 years. And Royal Portrush sits in the shadow of the medieval ruins of Dunluce Castle. Game of Thrones fans will recognize it as Castle Greyjoy. Golf Channel is using Game of Thrones imagery — and the voice of series star Stephen Dillane — to promote its coverage.
There will also be several Golf Films branded shorts airing throughout Golf Channel’s coverage of the tournament. And at the conclusion of the tournament Golf Channel will roll out its latest documentary, Tiger Woods – Chasing History. Premiering July 22, the film offers a career retrospective on the 81-time PGA Tour winner and also handicaps Woods’ chances of surpassing Sam Snead’s record of 82 wins.
Launched in 2014, Golf Films, a division of Golf Channel and NBC Sports, has steadily ramped up; this year’s slate of five films is its largest. On top of that, Golf Films every year produces dozens of shorts — like those viewers will see during the Open. A short tied to The Masters and narrated by Tom Brady notched 1 million views on social media in the week after it bowed on TV.
“More coverage on more platforms begets more viewers on more platforms,” says McCarley. “It’s a tried and true philosophy that we’ve been doing across a lot of different sports.”