PGA Overcomes Stereotypes to Build Strong Digital Presence

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If you were to close your eyes and envision what the typical PGA Tour fan embodied, the terms ‘young’ and ‘tech-savvy’ likely wouldn’t come to mind. You’d likely conjure up thoughts of an older gentleman more inclined to watch on television than interact online or stream a round digitally. While that stereotype may have fit the average golf fan at one point, times are changing.

Case in point, the PGA Championships wrapped up earlier this month — and the tournament delivered all-time records across the PGA’s digital platforms. The records included video starts (up 119 percent year over year), time spent viewing (105 percent) and total audience (up 107 percent in unique visitors).

These metrics are in part thanks to shifting demographics and viewing habits, but also heavily influenced by unique content created specifically for digital channels.

“There are a number of factors that are likely contributing to the increases: One, we are seeing both a growing young audience as well as the traditional fan consuming more and on more platforms,” said Gary Treater, Turner Sports’ GM of PGA.com. “More fans are consuming the PGA on multiple devices throughout the week as it is easier to find it on more platforms (e.g. TV, responsive web, iOS, Android, Roku and other connected devices). Two, we are creating content specifically for these platforms and devices that cater to various viewing habits (e.g. long-form streaming video tends to be consumed more on larger screens, shorter video clips and highlights on mobile, special content for social platforms).”

With new and existing fans consuming more of major tournaments online, that platform-specific content becomes one of the most important aspects of the PGA and Turner’s content strategy. It is this original kind of digital coverage that will continue to help the platform grow and thrive. Turner Sports, whether it’s with the NBA, PGA or its own Bleacher Report brand, has proven it knows what the digital fan wants from its coverage and continues to push the limits of what’s possible.

“Fans do like the ability to have options on what they watch, have the opportunity to interact with the content, and be able to control the experience,” Treater explained. “We offered fans the options each day of two featured groups in the morning and afternoon, coverage of featured holes 16, 17 and 18, content from the press room and the broadcast. Fans can go back and forth between streams, view the leaderboard and access a live reporting feed of all the action happening on the course, all while watching live video.”

It’s that ability for the viewer to feel like they’re in control of their experience and the behind-the-scenes access that makes the digital counterpart to the conventional broadcast intriguing for fans and a smart play for the PGA and Turner. The part of the coverage this is most evident in is the featured group coverage.

“The featured group coverage is unique and different from the broadcast as we take fans inside the ropes to experience every shot and nearly every minute of the entire round of some of the top players each day,” Treater said. “It is a compliment to the broadcast and is consumed on a standalone basis or as a second screen experience to the broadcast. We expanded the featured group coverage in 2016 and now offer over 80 hours of live video options during the week.”

Having interesting and different content digitally is necessary and a great first step, but getting people aware of it and watching is another issue. That’s where social media comes in.

“No question that social media has impacted both the way some fans experience the PGA Championship as well as how much they consume,” Treater shared. “Programming content on social platforms has enabled us to reach a broader and younger audience, allow them to consume the event where they are spending time, and join the conversation that is happening and share with friends.”

“Our goal is always to provide the best fan experience possible by creating world-class content and delivering it to fans where they prefer to consume it. Some will make social channels their platform of choice, others will find the official site for a deep experience and others will do both throughout the week of the event.”

While the PGA and Turner have charted new territory for their digital coverage, both understand the importance of growing and listening to the fans to understand how they should innovate next.

“We think the key is to understand your fans….their wants and needs and how they like to consume live golf, create compelling content they desire and deliver it in ways they prefer that enhances their viewing experience whether they are at work, at home at the event or on the go,” Treater explained. “One has to continue to evolve the content and delivery as platforms and fan viewing habits evolve.”

In sports you’re either moving forward or falling behind; there is no in between. For the PGA and Turner Sports, regardless of what the stereotype of the typical golf fan is, they’re changing the game digitally and growing golf’s fan base each step of the way.