PGA Championship

PGA Championship TV ratings fall as Charlotte shares spotlight with Charlottesville

Justin Thomas drops to one knee after teeing off from the 13th tee box during final round of the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte Sunday. Thomas went go on to win the championship.
Justin Thomas drops to one knee after teeing off from the 13th tee box during final round of the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte Sunday. Thomas went go on to win the championship. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte’s first-ever golf major drew record crowds to Quail Hollow Club, but weekend TV viewership was lower than expected because of coverage of the protests in Charlottesville, Va.

CBS drew a 3.6 overnight Nielsen rating for the final round of the PGA Championship Sunday, according to SportsBusiness Daily. That rating for the 2-7:15 p.m. period was down from 3.9 last year and marked the lowest for the final round of the PGA Championship since 2008, when the event aired at the same time as the Beijing Olympics.

Over the 2-7:15 p.m. time slot Sunday, major cable networks (including MSNBC, CNN and Fox News) saw their combined ratings surge 25 percent over the same weekend last year as news coverage continued of the Virginia unrest.

The violence in Charlottesville started Saturday when a group of white nationalists gathered to protest the removal of Confederate symbols. A car plowed through a group of counter protesters, killing one person and injuring over a dozen others.

Sunday’s final round viewership was also down in part because fewer houses were using TVs compared to years past, the sports site said.

CBS drew a 2.4 for the third round and TNT, which split the live television coverage with CBS, drew a 1.0 overnight for second-round coverage, flat from 2016.

Ahead of the event, PGA of America estimated the tournament would be broadcast to 570 million households. Charlotte business leaders saw this as a chance to put the city in the global spotlight, and showcase it as a good place for business.

The decline in the weekend viewership, which has been going on in golf as well as other sports for years, didn’t seem to discourage business leaders.

Bob Morgan, CEO of the Charlotte Chamber, said the city “set records left and right” for ticket and merchandise sales.

“I’m getting emails from friends and colleagues across the country saying how impressed they were,” Morgan said. “The message that Charlotte is open for business has never been more clear.”

Tom Murray, CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, said hosting an event the size of the PGA Championship provided the city global coverage that wouldn’t have been attainable through “traditional marketing avenues.”

“Throughout the CBS coverage, you not only saw Quail Hollow Club on full display, but also beautiful shots of our skyline and signature attractions like the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Murray said. “This type of positive coverage shines a bright spotlight on our city and is one of the reasons why strategic events like the championship are critical to Charlotte’s growth.”

In a major vote of confidence, PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua also said last week it is “100 percent in our plans” to bring the PGA Championship back to Charlotte.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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