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Summary:

Let’s give a nice round of soft golf claps for, well, golf. The subdued sport has embraced web video wholeheartedly and has seen some nice viewer numbers as a result (with a little boost from a guy named “Tiger” — you might have heard of him). […]

Let’s give a nice round of soft golf claps for, well, golf. The subdued sport has embraced web video wholeheartedly and has seen some nice viewer numbers as a result (with a little boost from a guy named “Tiger” — you might have heard of him).

masters21

Golf helped teach the sporting world a valuable lesson last year during the U.S. Open’s down-to-the-wire playoff finale. Because the match was on a Monday, people were at work and unable to watch on a traditional television. Both NBC and USOpen.com carried live video streams of the match, and the result was a proverbial hole-in-one.

Combined, the two sites served up more than 4 million streams of the event in a single day. What got less attention was that match play on the Thursday and Friday before the big playoff generated 1.2 million streams with the average viewer spending 2.5 hours on the U.S. Open site. Before web video, much of that audience would have been lost, either because there was no coverage or coverage was only on TV. Another big winner besides fans for that coverage? American Express, which had the exclusive marketing rights for the tournament and served a 15-second pre-roll in front of all those streams.

This year is shaping up to be even an even better year for golf when it comes to online video. The game suffered a setback last year, with both television and online viewership depressed, as Tiger Woods was out for most of the season following knee surgery. But he’s back now, bringing a bunch of eyeballs with him. PGATour.com served up 2.5 million video streams during the first round of The World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship, Tiger’s return to tournament play. Over the four days at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, PGATour.com served up 4.7 million video streams. So far, during the first quarter of 2009, PGATour.com has had 657 million page views, 3.4 million average monthly unique users, and has served up 54 million video streams.

Now we’re knee-deep in the Masters Tournament, and those shackled to a desk can once again enjoy online video coverage of the matches in between filling out TPS reports. At Masters.com or CBSSports.com, viewers can watch the following (all times ET):

The Amen Corner (Holes 11, 12, and 13)
Friday from 10:45 a.m. – 6:45 p.m.
Saturday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday from Noon – 6 p.m.

Holes No. 15 and 16
Friday from 11:45 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturday from Noon – 7 p.m.
Sunday from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Masters Extra (an hour of daily bones footage from the Tournament)
Friday from 3 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Saturday from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Sunday from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

We were big fans of the Masters online video coverage last year (and don’t tell our boss, but we plan to watch even more this year). As a bonus, the video player got a high quality makeover this year, so the picture (screengrab above) looks pretty spectacular. From early viewing, it looks like there is no pre-roll this time around, but IBM, Exxon Mobil and AT&T have their logos on display in the Masters.com video player, and AT&T is all over the CBSSports.com player.

If you’re more of a mobile watcher, you can download the free Masters App to watch all the same coverage on your iPhone.

Golf isn’t the only sport that understands the value of online video. For years, the NCAA has streamed all 63 games from the March Madness Men’s Basketball Tournament online. It gets its biggest audience online during the start of the tournament, as many games are on during the workday. This year’s March Madness scored 5.6 million unique visitors during the first four days of play.

Just imagine what those numbers would be if Tiger took up basketball.

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