In Depth

Golf Channel Leaps on Tiger’s Return

The Golf Channel sprang into action when Tiger Woods announced on Thursday he would return to competitive play next week in a tournament that the network will carry live in early rounds.

Golf Channel broke away from its live coverage of the Northern Trust Open for a “Golf Central” special update on Mr. Woods’ announcement that he will play in the World Golf Championships in Tucson. The network quickly began airing promos and commercials touting the return.

Golf Channel, which will have live coverage of the event Wednesday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET, will be the first to show Mr. Woods in action since he played on a badly injured knee while winning the U.S. Open last June. (The channel will re-air its coverage in prime time those days.) NBC carries the rest of the World Golf Championship over the weekend.

Mr. Woods’ absence has hurt TV ratings for tournaments on the broadcast networks. Golf Channel said it experienced less of a slide for events Mr. Woods had to cancel on because the network’s core audience continued to tune in. Overall, the network’s ratings were basically flat during the fourth quarter compared to the prior year.

That doesn’t mean Golf Channel isn’t excited about the return of the game’s most popular player.

After Mr. Woods made his announcement, posted a story on the return, with blog entries from Golf Channel’s staff of writers.

The network quickly began airing on-air promos, including in-show promo boards during the Northern Trust Open coverage, and had lower-third graphics featuring Tiger on screen.

Six “Tiger Woods Returns” commercials began airing at 5:20 p.m. Thursday evening, and continue to run.

The network expanded its “Golf Central” show to an hour on Thursday. Sunday’s 6 p.m. edition of “Golf Central” will expand to 90 minutes. Updates will air during the network’s prime-time coverage of the Champions tour on Sunday.

Golf Channel plans to cover Tiger Woods’ press conference live on either Monday or Tuesday, and will re-air it following “Golf Central” at 6:30. p.m.

A 30-minute special will air at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday and a 60 minute pre-game show will appear at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

(Editor: Baumann)