How massive Masters TV ratings compare to PGA Tour, LIV Golf’s
It’s a really, really good morning to be CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus.
On Tuesday, CBS released a monster Masters ratings report from the weekend at Augusta National that showed the highest final-round ratings for a golf telecast on any network in five years.
Per CBS’s release, the network averaged some 12.058 million viewers during the five-plus hour broadcast window on Sunday afternoon at Augusta National, peaking with some 15.021 million viewers at the conclusion of Jon Rahm’s victory around 7 p.m. ET. The average audience represents a jump of some 19 percent over Scottie Scheffler’s snoozefest final round in 2022, a massive viewership jump for both the tournament and the sport writ large.
The news comes as particularly sweet to Augusta National and CBS, who worked in tandem to ensure the tournament could both be completed on Sunday (on account of rain) and, once that was solidified, to change the broadcast window to provide coverage of the majority of the final day of play.
The final-round numbers, while impressive, were needed for CBS considering the schedule changes, which resulted in only 15 minutes of national broadcast time on Saturday afternoon on account of the weather. That Saturday broadcast earned criticism from golf fans for its seeming lack of foresight about a dreadful weather forecast, and while the decision not to adjust the Sunday window was Augusta National’s (not CBS’s), the drop in viewership from Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning likely cost the network a significant chunk of average viewership.
Fortunately, most (if not all) of those viewers were made up by the drama created by Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm’s final-round clash at Augusta National. It’s hard to know precisely what drove higher-than-average viewership to the tournament on Sunday, but it’s likely some combination of the LIV storyline, a pair of high-profile golfers knotted in the final pairing and Sunday’s wall-to-wall coverage contributed to it. It’s also possible that golf’s Netflix docuseries, Full Swing, played some role in driving higher-than-usual numbers of casual golf fans to tune in on Sunday afternoon.
Whatever the case, though, the numbers were good — across the board. ESPN’s first and second-round coverage drew slightly lower ratings year-over-year, but those numbers were skewed by weather costing the network its highest-viewership period in the late-Friday window. Over on Golf Channel, Live From posted its highest two viewership days ever from the Masters, recording 1.1 million viewers each day.
In the greater scheme of golf’s current viewership situation, though, the numbers present an intriguing trend to monitor. While PGA Tour viewership has held steady (averaging around 2 million viewers on normal weeks), and LIV has managed to wrangle audiences averaging a few-hundred-thousand people, the majors could be the beneficiary of a surge in casual viewership amplified by the LIV-PGA Tour undercurrent.
It’s early to say with any certainty whether this trend will continue. A runaway winner could score terrible ratings at next month’s PGA Championship, or the momentum could fail to carry over to June’s primetime viewership at the U.S. Open. But for now, the news is good, and McManus knows well enough to take that and run with it.