Turner Sports is betting feud between golf stars DeChambeau and Koepka will be Black Friday TV draw

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  • The match, a TV golf game, will pit PGA Tour rivals Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka against each other.
  • Turner Sports debuted in 2019 and has been escalating the feud between golfers earlier this year.
  • “I think they balked at the idea of ​​having some fun with it,” said Craig Barry, executive vice president and chief content officer for Turner Sports.

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After a day the family would spend trying to stay away from politics and avoid fights, Turner Sports is relying on conflict and drama to entice viewers to its Black Friday golf show.

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Turner’s network TNT. airing the fifth installment of match 5 On November 26, a one-off game between Bryson DeChambeau, 28, and Brooks Koepka, 31, PGA Tour golfers who have emerged as heated rivalries over the years. The program begins at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

The made-for-TV golf game began in 2018, when Tiger Woods took on Phil Mickelson. Two PGA icons helped Turner Sports, which is owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia, last year the most-watched golf game in cable history, amid a pandemic and an extended pause in live sports. This year there will be a large number of fans on the course as well as at home.

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In TNT’s 30-second promotional video, each golfer is seen playing with Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” in the background of the match. In one clip, DeChambeau is taking the practice swing and Koepka’s head becomes the ball. After destroying the shot, DeChambeau says, “I’m coming for you, Brooks.”

At the end of the commercial, DeChambeau says, “Friendgiving this year is going to be a little different.”

“They know what’s going on, and there’s a rivalry,” said Craig Barry, the executive vice president and chief content officer of Turner Sports, admitted that he laughed when he saw the video. “I think they succumbed to the idea of ​​having some fun with it.”

The event resembles a championship boxing match. It is set at the Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas, typically charges $550 per person, and features a 12-hole match instead of the usual 18 holes. The golfer with the most holes wins the exhibition.

On the PGA Tour, and excluding international competition, Dechambeau and Koepka are tied for career victories with eight. Koepka ahead in terms of total earnings $36.7 million To about $26 million for DeChambeau.

their Fight Controversy over the pace of the game began in 2019, and Koepka’s criticism that golfers like DeChambeau take too long between shots. Things got heated during an interview of Koepka at the PGA Championship in May, which went viral on Twitter.

With the camera rolling, DeChambeau walked over to Koepka and appeared to say something under his breath. Koepka got distracted and gave a dramatic turn a blind eye to the camera, The game is grabbing the attention of the world.

Barry expects the tension to promote competitive play to spectators the day after Thanksgiving.

“What kind of gets lost is who is the better golfer,” he said. “I think these two face to face is an interesting story in itself.”

In a separate promo for the match, Turner filmed DeChambeau hitting the ball from the roof of the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas and onto the golf course, where Koepka’s face was depicted as a target.

“I just banged Brooks’ big head,” DeChambeau said after hitting the shot, which was over 500 yards Distant. He had to make several attempts to hit the target. “It’s time to beat his butt in a real match,” DeChambeau said.

Turner Sports has found a successful formula with the format.

In May 2020, Woods and Mickelson teamed up with National Football League favorites Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to play The Match 2. It garnered the highest golf rating in cable history with 5.8 million viewers and raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief.

Barry said that figure is approaching $40 million as Turner Sports aired two more installments of the golf game it helped raise money for historically black colleges and universities last November.

This week’s match will again feature Challenge Holes for Charity Dollars, including the ninth and 11th holes. Each has a value of up to $2 million for a single hole.

Monday Night Golf Experiment

Match playing in golf has been around for decades.

NS historical skins game The PGA Tour ran from 1983 to 2008, giving golf fans a high-profile event to watch in November or December after the end of the season.

Woods then tried his hand at made-for-TV golf, starting an annual match with ABC in 1999. ABC called the program Monday Night Golf, an attempt to mimic the National Football League’s Monday Night Football, a perennial ratings crusher.

The first incident in 1999 was called the “Showdown at Sherwood” and pitted the then 23-year-old Woods against David Duvall. woods won the match and was awarded $1.1. One million. The fight at Bighorn in 2000 pitted Woods against longtime rival Sergio Garcia, and was perhaps the most memorable Monday Night golf game. Garcia beat Woods, took home $1.1 million in prize money.

Battle in the Bighorn received a rating of 7.6 viewers at the time. outside of estimated 105 million In households with TV in 2000, more than 7 million people connected to watch the match.

But Monday Night Golf viewership began to sink As the novelty wears off.

The second fight at Bighorn in 2001, involving Woods, Duval, Annika Sorenstam and Karri Webb, was dropped. 19.7 percent in viewership. Over the next two years, the rating fell to 5.1 and 4.6, respectively.

The event was canceled in 2005, just as Monday Night Football was moving to ABC sister network ESPN, which took over with a $1.1 billion annually a settlement.

“They made it feel special,” said Barry, referring to the early years of Monday Night Golf. “The hardest part about building a franchise is constantly finding a reason for people to look.”

Where the fight clashes in Bjorn, she “doesn’t feel as special as she did twice before,” he said. “I think we focused on making sure we created a narrative where we felt each match was special in its own right.”

What is the value of the match?

Turner did not say how much he was spending on the match. Last year, the second installment with Woods attracted $5.8 million in ad spend across four WarnerMedia networks, according to ad-tech firm MediaRadar. Sponsors include Capital One.

Brian Zurif, co-creator of The Match, told CNBC last year that the program’s “advertising dollars are more than we spend.”

For 2021, Turner negotiated in-house advertising deals, used Brady’s production company, and turned to Woods’ agency, Excel Sports, to help coordinate event operations at Wynn.

The third event of the match in 2020 averaged nearly a million spectators, and the fourth, which featured DeChambeau, Mickelson, Brady and fellow NFL star Aaron Rodgers in July of this year, averaged 1.9 million. It outperformed other cable golf events, including ESPN’s coverage of the 2021 PGA Championship, which drew an estimated 1.3 million viewers in May.

“I think it’ll get a marketable, engaging demo, and I think sponsors will pay to reach that market,” said former CBS Sports president Neil Pilson.

Will Funk, executive vice president of sports partnerships at Turner Sports, called The Match a “proven brand.”

“I think we showed that we can build our audience and connect sponsors, corporate partners and revenue with that,” he said. “It’s a great business for us.”

WarnerMedia will also use The Match as an opportunity to promote its new streaming service CNN+, which is scheduled to launch in 2022,

The event will air on WarnerMedia’s TBS, HLN and TruTV alongside TNT, and some elements will stream on Bleacher Report. Like its predecessor matches, the network will use cameras on golf carts and microphones on DeChambeau, Koepka and their caddies.

“It makes it more attractive to people,” said Pete Kowalski, a former communications officer for the United States Golf Association. “They want to hear what a player is saying when he’s thinking about a shot. They want to see the little things.”

Barry said Turner would find entertainment value to be compared to recent events in which golfers were linked and interacted with each other.

“It’s going to open a whole new door for fans to engage in these conversations,” Barry said. “It will be an interesting case study for us.”

Viewers will get additional entertainment from the broadcast booth, as NBA legend Charles Barkley is joined by Mickelson. Both are considered robbers.

“These two people have an interesting track record of observations and a background of antipathy – some of it may be believable, some may be anecdotal,” Pilson said. “But I think the public will be curious about what these people can say to each other.”

Self-proclaimed golf “purist” Kowalski admitted that he has never been a fan of made-for-TV golf matches. He added that the intrigue surrounding this particular competition may have been somewhat spoiled, as DeChambeau and Koepka were teammates. in the Ryder Cup last September and publicly underestimated any tension.

“I’m not sure the feud was as much a fight as it was portrayed,” Kowalski said.

Beyond the game, both DeChambeau and Koepka benefit from exposure to the sport. New to the PGA Tour is the Player Impact Program, an incentive scheme that splits $40 million among high-profile golfers who help promote the brand and increase viewership for the events.

Barry said Friday’s match would give Turner a good sense of the value of this type of event.

“It will teach us whether this format is interesting to fans,” Barry said. “And if it’s interesting to the fan – it becomes more interesting to us.”

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