On the one hand, the Tour promotes the charities and the First Tee program and all the things it is trying to do to get next to the people. Then, they turn right around and act like the elitist organization a lot of people suspect them of being. And I honestly dont know whom to believe anymore.
The Senior Tour is awash in bad ratings on its cable television network, CNBC. CNBC is televising 33 tournaments this year, with one rather large caveat: they arent showing them live. ESPN has been the network of choice for the Senior Tour the last few years, but on a more limited basis. CNBC is basically a network for financial experts and their wannabees, not a channel of sports nuts. Golf is a new venture for CNBC, but it is shown after the markets close and the figure filberts have gone home for the day. Tournaments are shown from 5-7 p.m. Eastern, even though they are actually finished two or three hours before then.
Still, the Tour puts a very interesting twist to CNBC. Im very comfortable in some respects, commissioner Tim Finchem said recently.
Hes comfortable in that 25 percent more tournaments are broadcast on CNBC, he said. And hes also comfortable with the promotion CNBC gives. Getting in front of their audience is very important, said Finchem.
The Tennessean newspaper did a survey recently in which the telecasts of March were compared to those of a year ago. The ratings were down 24 percent overall, but for those with an income of $75,000 or more, ratings were up 80 percent. For those aged 35 to 64, ratings were still down overall, but when it came to the wealthy 35-64s, ratings were up 135 percent. This, believes the Tour, is something worth crowing about.
To the average Joe, that is a little troubling. The Senior Tour isnt the same product it was five or 10 years ago, its popularity is waning, and yet the Tour is doing little to change it.
Were definitely getting the audience the golf advertisers and the Senior PGA are looking for, CNBC spokesman Jonathan Klein told The Tennessean.
What is the Senior Tour looking for? Is it the audience, or is it the type of audience? Is it numbers, or the number in bank accounts?
It isnt CNBCs fault that the ratings are slipping. They just televise the events, and with a four-year contract firmly in place, nothing is going to change for quite some time.
But this whole thing leaves professional golf in a sticky situation as far as perception. The Senior Tours audience is dwindling as its great old stars leave one by one. But the PGA Tour seems fine with that, as long as the upper-income blokes keep watching. If you and I dont find it convenient to watch the tape-delayed telecasts, that doesnt particularly bother the folks of the Tour. Now, if Bryan Big Shot were not to watch, that would be worrisome, according to the PGA Tour.
And yet, the Tour maintains that golfs elitist image is not the image it wants to project. It wants you to believe it has in mind the interests of the school kid, as well as the millionaire. It may be a Tour of millionaires, but it wants you to believe it has your interests at heart.
The ideals of the First Tee, a program designed to introduce everyone to golf, are certainly lofty. But they conflict with the ideals of reality, which say that CBNC is the network of the rich.