How much of this year’s Masters did you watch on an actual television? A tablet? Desktop, laptop or phone?
The answer is likely some combination of all of them and – for some – quite possibly all at the same time.
You didn’t have to go far on social media to find photos of golfers sitting in lounge rooms that more closely resembled TV production trailers, multiple screens simultaneously showing different images and feeds.
Digital technology has changed many things in the past two decades but in recent years the ability to stream broadcast quality images almost seamlessly over the internet might be the biggest game changer of all.
"Between the dedicated TV Channels, apps and online coverage provided by the official broadcasters to the tournament’s own digital offering it was actually difficult at times to know what to watch."
As with print media and radio before it, mainstream TV now finds itself in a market where the barriers to entry are minimal and the competition for eyeballs is fierce.
There was a time not all that long ago (in analogue years, not digital time. Two weeks is an eternity in digital time) when the viewing experience was much simpler.
Using The Masters as an example (though it’s true of many sports), you turned the TV to Channel Nine at 5am and watched through to the conclusion of play.
The shots you saw and commentary you heard was all controlled from the CBS compound on site at Augusta National while the ad breaks were at the behest of a local director.
It was a simpler time and, with no other options, there was no fear that you were missing out on something. (Apparently, the kids call this FOMO, the inventive little buggers!)
Fast forward to what was on offer last week and the notion of just one viewing channel feels positively pre-historic.
Between the dedicated TV Channels, apps and online coverage provided by the official broadcasters to the tournament’s own digital offering it was actually difficult at times to know what to watch.
The end result of all this was staggeringly low ratings for CBS, official viewership down as much as 57 percent on last year’s final round.
That doesn’t mean 57 percent less people watched the tournament, it just means 57 percent less watched it on ‘normal’ TV.
Professional sport, and golf as much as any other, is built on the marketing possibilities made possible by large numbers of people tuning in simultaneously.
For an entire generation, the world’s biggest sporting events have been a better bet as an advertising vehicle than any other broadcast entertainment because of the all but guaranteed live audience.
Recently, Netflix and its equivalents made that redundant for drama and movies by making timeshift viewing possible; now digital technology is having a similarly fracturing impact on sport.
Ultimately, it likely matters little for the end consumer who simply goes where the product is best.
But the potential impact on the other side of that equation – the supplier – is yet to be determined.
Factor in Covid 19 and its global impacts (particularly on the European Tour) and the suspiciously quiet (of late) Premier Golf League, and there are interesting times ahead for professional golf.