Shortly after a report on mydesert.com that the television revenues for the U.S. Skins Games no longer justify the hype or the rights fees for the annual American Thanksgiving weekend event, the Canadian version of the Skins Game announced their field for this year’s TELUS World Skins Game. The Canadian event is to be held in Quebec City in June.
In 2008 the U.S. event drew a 1.2 share (about 1.3 million viewers) on its ABC broadcast compared to a rating between 5.0 and 7.0 in its heyday. When you consider the City of Indian Wells shelled out $4.4 million over three years to play host to the annual event its pretty easy to see that the return is not currently justifying the investment.
Having been to a Skins game in Canada and a number of regular PGA Tour events over the years, I believe the challenge the powers that be face is in the format. Unlike a regular PGA Tour event, where as a spectator you can find one great viewing position and watch group after group of players come by your spot or on television where you are constantly viewing golf shots from all over the course, the Skins Game has only one foursome (or fivesome in the case of the TELUS Skins Game). As a spectator at the Skins Game, the majority of your time is spent scrambling to the hole ahead in hopes of getting a glimpse at four (or five) shots before racing off to the next location. On television, the majority of the coverage is done watching the players walk towards their ball after playing each shot, its sort of like watching grass grow and not very exciting.
Perhaps a shake up is needed to reenergize the format and get the ratings back to where they were when the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer and Trevino were competing in the event. At this point ESPN is considering the cancellation of the U.S. Skins Game for 2009 and the TELUS Skins Game could use this information to react in a positive way and make some changes that provide a more exciting event. Perhaps a Ryder Cup format over 9 holes each day or an alternate shot format currently employed by the Champions Tour Skins Game may help bring some excitement to this made for television event.
With Quebec City Tourism and Quebec Tourism as sponsors you can bet they will be looking for a return on their investment!
Oh and by the way, the field for the TELUS Skins Game is Mike Weir, Fred Couples, Geoff Ogilvy, Trevor Immelman and Ian Poulter.
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