May 27, 2014

Colonial TV ratings surprisingly drop from 2013

Title sponsor Crowne Plaza has stressed TV ratings will be a key factor to remain in Fort Worth past the 2015 event.

The buzz generated by Adam Scott’s playoff victory in Sunday’s final round at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial did not translate to improved television ratings for Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour stop.

Scott, the No. 1 player in the world golf rankings, helped sell lots of tickets for his triumph over Jason Dufner in a three-hole, sudden-death playoff. But the ratings for Sunday’s final-round telecast were down 12 percent from last year’s telecast, based on figures released Tuesday by CBS.

Sunday’s telecast garnered a 1.5 rating with a 4 share. The 2013 final-round telecast, with Boo Weekley claiming the Colonial title, pulled a 1.7 rating and a 4 share.

Colonial’s third-round ratings, which included a one-hour weather delay during the Saturday telecast, pulled a 0.9 rating/2 share, down from a 1.1 rating/3 share in 2013.

The 2014 overnight ratings for CBS’ weekend telecasts were the tournament’s lowest since 2010, when the event posted a 1.0 rating/3 share in the final round and a 0.9 rating/2 share on Saturday.

Michael Tothe, Colonial tournament director, said he was “shocked” by the ratings drop-off based on Sunday’s dramatic playoff between two major champions from the 2013 season.

Along with industry analysts, he surmised that sunny conditions throughout most of the U.S. on Memorial Day weekend, particularly in areas impacted by rough winter and spring weather, might have contributed to the drop-off.

The timing of the ratings drop could prove crucial in negotiations with the event’s title sponsor. Crowne Plaza’s contract expires after the 2015 tournament and Gina LaBarre, vice president of Crowne Plaza brand management, stressed during tournament week that TV ratings would be significant in deliberations about an extension. LaBarre said a decision will be made in September.

“It’s all going to be in the ratings because, really, that’s what it’s about at the end of the day,” LaBarre said. “So I won’t know at the end of this week what’s going to happen. We’ve got to see what we do from a ratings perspective … For us, it’s about how do we get more national exposure for the brand.”

Colonial’s last notable uptick in TV ratings occurred in 2011, when David Toms claimed the title and the final-round telecast drew a 2.1 rating/5 share, an increase of 110 percent from the 2010 final-round ratings. Although ratings will be crucial in Crowne Plaza’s deliberations, LaBarre stressed that other factors will be considered. Crowne Plaza has been the Colonial title sponsor since 2007.

“We will have to decide by the end of September,” LaBarre said. “We’ll do the due diligence when we get back, and we also have to look at it from a development standpoint because we use this to entertain our owners. So what has this done for us to drive more deals, more hotels, across all [hotel chain] brands? Not just Crowne Plaza. Trying to quantify that, as well, is always a challenge.

“So we’ll look at the whole entire package and determine what is the right future for us, where this event is concerned. This is where we put the lion’s share of our marketing is right here, through golf. So we have to get as much exposure as we can for the brand.”

Having Scott, the No. 1 player in the world, as a defending champion in 2015 gives Crowne Plaza a value-added factor for next year’s event that could impact extension deliberations. Another factor in negotiations could be next year’s competition dates, which have yet to be assigned by PGA Tour officials.

From Tothe’s perspective, Crowne Plaza officials were overjoyed during Sunday night’s celebration with the newly crowned champion.

“They’re happy. They were smiling from ear-to-ear,” Tothe said. “If ever you had a finish where you were setting yourself up to enhance a partnership, this was the year. There was more energy, more bodies and more excitement on the grounds Sunday than I’ve seen in the short time I’ve been here. It was an amazing atmosphere.”

Tothe, who became the Colonial tournament director for the 2012 event, estimated the event drew crowds of 40,000 for both weekend rounds.

Looking ahead, he cited the need to improve the concessions experience and expand parking options for the 2015 tournament. Tothe mentioned a desire to add a city-owned parking lot near Will Rogers Coliseum to the tournament’s rotation of shuttle lots, if possible. But no deal has been reached.

By September, Colonial officials anticipate knowing whether a new deal will be reached with Crowne Plaza as the tournament title sponsor. Despite a stellar Sunday finish on the course, the CBS overnight ratings released Tuesday were not an asset for Colonial officials in those negotiations.

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