The Match TV ratings just dropped to their lowest-ever

rose zhang max homa rory mcilroy lexi thompson and kathryn tappen do an interview for the match

The Match IX delivered on entertainment, but evidently not on ratings.

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The good news is that The Match remains untouched as the most-watched golf telecast in cable history.

The bad news? It’s got a long way to go before it finds itself in that territory again.

The ninth iteration of The Match — which aired on Monday night featuring a skins game between Rory McIlroy, Rose Zhang, Max Homa and Lexi Thompson — was the least-watched version of the event ever, pulling in some 511,000 average viewers across the Warner Bros. Discovery family of networks (TNT, TruTV, HLN). The latest edition of the made-for-TV event fell by close to a quarter-million viewers off its previous low, last June’s battle between Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson (723,000 viewers), per the Sports Business Journal’s numbers whiz Austin Karp.

The news arrives as something of a surprise, particularly after Monday night’s star-studded iteration of the event (complete with cameos from Paul Bissonnette, DJ Khaled and Charles Barkley) earned strong reviews from those watching. Monday’s Match was the first to feature two female golfers, Zhang and Thompson, and felt like the first version of the event in several years to capture the monolithic attention of the golf world, if only for a few hours. Still, the numbers suggest the event fell into the viewership territory of the average LIV final round on the CW, which is to say it had some viewers, but still well shy of the numbers typically seen on the weekends on the PGA Tour.

Perhaps that viewership news is not a surprise to golf fans nonplussed by the general hit-and-giggle nature of the event, but it represents the latest in a concerning ratings trend for The Match. It was, after all, just four years ago that The Match: Champions for Change debuted to record-setting cable audiences — 5.8 million average viewers, the largest ever for a cable golf event — featuring Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning from the Medalist Club in Hobe Sound, Fla. Sure, those numbers were aided considerably by a barren sports landscape at the onset of the pandemic, but they seemed to point to a real future for the event as a commercial and entertainment enterprise for professional golf, particularly considering the (comparatively) low-cost, fly-on-the-wall nature of The Match telecast.

Now, some seven Matches and 5.3 million fewer viewers separate 2020 from The Match we saw on Monday. The event is still, to be sure, a low-cost commercial vehicle for Warner Bros. Discovery and Excel Sports, the companies responsible for organizing it. But is it an intrinsic piece of golf’s future entertainment landscape? It’s harder to say.

The good news, at least, is that the incorporation of Zhang and Thompson was a striking success for the event, seizing on a recent trend of pairing golf’s top men’s and women’s competitors together (as at the inaugural Grant Thornton Invitational in December). And the close to $2 million raised for charity is a nice kicker, too. Of course, the benefit of the format is that it is easier to monetize than most big golf tournaments, which require massive production loads and heavy budgets.

But, as with any other commercial sports product, the future of The Match will be tied to its organizers’ ability to monetize it — and falling ratings are not good for the bottom line.

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