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'The Match': Pay-Per-View Golf May Be A First, But Primetime Tee-Offs Are Nothing New

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'The Match': Pay-Per-View Golf May Be A First, But Primetime Tee-Offs Are Nothing New
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The $9-million pay-per-view match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson Friday presents many questions: why wasn't this match scheduled 10 years earlier? And if it does go well, will pay-per-view golf take off? 

Some are calling it a must-see event, while others have other golf matchups they would rather watch. 

"The Match" is certainly a gamble from a broadcast perspective; the matchup format means that if one golfer is playing poorly, the round could be over by the 14th hole. The unique mic-ed match format could give viewers a more personal viewing experience and represents an experiment with the way golf is broadcast.

"The Match" tees off at 3 p.m. Friday at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas. A tangle of corporations have a hand in the game: it's produced by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Turner Sports and distributed by carriers such as AT&T, Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Charter Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: CHTR), Cox Communications, Verizon Communications Inc (NYSE: VZ) and Altice USA Inc (NYSE: ATUS). The game is sponsored by Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) and is being played on a golf course owned by MGM Resorts International (NYSE: MGM).

'The Ultimate Reality Show' 

While pay-per-view golf may be a first, primetime golf between the world's best players has been around for decades. Golf historians may remember "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf" and "Big 3 Golf," which regularly featured Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.

More recently, "Monday Night Golf" ran from 1999-2005 and garnered respectable ratings for ABC in the first two years, and even had two matches that pitted Woods and Mickelson in a four-ball matchup.

When looking at the ratings, it's clear the fans preferred the one-on-one format. And outside of Woods and Mickelson, it's unlikely there are other golfers who are compelling enough for fans to pay to watch. 

Media consultant Brad Adgate told Benzinga it's difficult to predict how the pay-per-view program will perform. 

"There is very little track record but the price point is reasonable. The golf aficionado tends to be older and wealthier, and that may help the buy rate for this — but from a pay-per-view event standpoint, this is not "Wrestlemania" or Mayweather," he said. 

"This is definitely a programming stunt and this could be a huge bomb if one of them can't stay on the fairway, but that's the beauty of live TV. It's the ultimate reality show;there is a lot of pressure, but these guys have been under pressure before." 

Pro Golfers As Brands 

University of Detroit Mercy marketing professor Mike Bernacchi said the details of "The Match" are lining up properly, but the event needs to marketed well.

"If the match goes well, it's about [this being] the proper time of year for this to happen. There are not many golfers who are really brands unto themselves. People know who these folks are because they have been around and been marketed as brands. That's the key," he said.

Bernacchi said he couldn't think of any other golfers who would be appropriate for the pay-per-view format. 

"If golf is your cup of tea, it could be a good thing." 

Outside of Woods' resurgence, golf ratings are on the decline, and "The Match" is an attempt to breathe new life into the game, said San Diego State University professor Jim Lackritz. 

"Golf is sticking its toe in the water to see if something like this will fly and take advantage of Tiger's resurgence, because Tiger's popularity is 10 standard deviations higher than anyone else. It's also a test to see if Phil has a Q rating left. His Ryder Cup performance was less-than-stellar," he told Benzinga. 

"The new wave of golfers are fun to watch, but they don't move the needle." 

Related Links:

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Photo courtesy of Turner Sports. 

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