Most viewers missed NBC’s goodwill gesture as Lilia Vu captured the inaugural Chevron Championship on Sunday.
If you found yourself watching Lilia Vu’s thrilling victory on Sunday at the Chevron Championship on NBC, you might have missed it.
In fact, NBC hopes you did miss it.
As the golf wound down in thrilling fashion — with Vu and Angel Yin battling for the first major of the renewed women’s golf season — you might have found yourself focused on, well, the golf. Not the fact that NBC didn’t miss a moment of the action from the back-nine drama all the way through to the bitter end.
Of course, if you were watching, you did focus on the golf. That much is clear in NBC’s latest ratings report, which showed an average audience of some 941,000 viewers during Sunday’s final round, the largest since 2010 for the tournament (formerly called the ANA Inspiration) in the first year in its new venue.
In all, NBC stayed on the air more than 90 minutes beyond its original broadcast window on Sunday at the Chevron, extending well beyond any reasonable expectation for the completion of the tournament when the day began (a timeframe aided by a sudden-death playoff). In order to stay in the air throughout the end of the tournament, the network cut its 6 p.m. ET local news broadcast, 6:30 p.m. ET NBC Nightly News broadcast, and half of its 7 p.m. ET Dateline airing.
Now, we’d like to be clear that we’re not celebrating NBC for not hanging viewers out to dry. It is both the network’s job and its responsibility to cover its tournaments through to completion. But considering the firestorm that would have (rightfully) surrounded the network had it opted to bail out of the Chevron in favor of any of those other programs, NBC’s decision in this instance is worth noting. And, considering the ratings that came with Sunday’s final round at the Chevron, NBC’s decision is worth spotlighting.
Critics often argue that women’s events draw fewer national television hours than their counterparts on account of sagging interest and television viewership. But recent viewership data seems to argue the opposite is true, with big women’s events turning extended national television windows into record ratings for their networks. Notably, NBC said its Chevron Championship audience peaked at 1.54 million viewers around 7:15 p.m. ET — about an hour after the broadcast was “scheduled” to end, or around the same time that Vu and Yin’s playoff began in earnest.
Good thing they stuck with it.
BIG viewership rolling in for the Chevron Championship.
Sunday’s final round averaged 941,000 viewers across NBC & Peacock, peaked at 1.54 million viewers during the playoff.
Most-watched Chevron (or ANA Inspiration) since 2010. Biggest audience for the tournament EVER on NBC pic.twitter.com/eDMDCwEoyP
We won’t know for some time how LIV’s tape delay debut on the CW performed in the United States. In fact, without reliable viewership data (which, for reasons we explained here, has to be self-reported by LIV), we might not know at all. But there is no question how it felt to see a tape-delayed broadcast of a major sports league in the internet era.
LIV’s first voyage into Australia was, by most accounts, a smashing success. Fans came out in droves to see pro golf in Adelaide, and the resultant highlights represented some of the best live tournament moments seen from the new league since its inception. But back stateside, the picture wasn’t quite as bright…literally.
When Talor Gooch claimed the LIV Adelaide title on Sunday morning, the sun hadn’t yet risen on the east coast of the United States. And further west, some bars had only recently made last call. Surely some people tuned in to see the end of Sunday’s broadcast live on the CW app, which will stream all broadcasts live this year irrespective of time difference. But for the overwhelming majority of those in the United States, their LIV final-round watching didn’t start for another 10 hours or so after the completion of play, when the tournament went live (on delay) on the CW.
Tape delays aren’t great for anyone, from the fans watching at home to the tournament and league officials responsible for running websites and social media accounts who have to decide if the immediacy of the internet is worth turning away potential viewers or followers. This awkwardness was evident on the league’s official social media accounts, which covered the event on Aussie time but waited to post winner’s graphics on Instagram until just before 9 a.m. ET — close to two hours after the event completed — when a larger swathe of the American audience was awake. Those accounts were largely quiet when LIV went live on the CW later in the afternoon. The situation was similar on the LIV official website, which greeted visitors at the halfway point of its American broadcast window (shortly before 3 p.m. ET) with final-round highlights, a final leaderboard, and headlines recapping the day’s action.
In short, it’s a situation without an obvious solution for LIV. Nobody likes having the end of a tournament spoiled beforehand. Nobody likes social media posts that are published hours after their intended time (or, for that matter, are posted before much of the viewing audience in the league’s home country is awake). And nobody likes to see a half-day-old sports product, even when the alternative means waking up in the dead of night to tune in.
Maybe the fix is for fans to grow used to avoiding the internet on the final morning of foreign events and watching on delay. Maybe it’s for a larger swathe to tune in to overnight watch parties. Or maybe it’s just simply to get over it.
At any rate, it’s a new issue faced by LIV — and one that helps explain some of why the PGA Tour has been so reticent to build a fully international schedule itself.
Turns out creating a fully global tour ain’t easy. Who woulda thought?
James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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