I covered the NCAA's March Madness tournament and its online viewing options several times in the past month. They've made steady gains in both the viewership and the advertising dollars—not to mention the quality of the online viewing experience.
There is one other sporting event that continues to lead the charge for online live streaming video, and that's The Masters.
If you live under a rock, The Masters is perhaps the biggest annual event in professional golf. It started this morning—Tiger teed off about an hour ago—and continues through Sunday (barring rain delays). Much like the first weekend of the March Madness tourney, many viewers in the target audience for The Masters are stuck at work for the first two days… unable to watch. At least… they were until a few years ago, when the Masters started streaming online.
I don't have any data to support this claim (like that's ever stopped me before), but I'd venture to guess that there are millions of viewers who watch online that wouldn't otherwise watch at all—especially on Thursday and Friday. I'm one of them. It's running on my second screen as I type this.
There are a few ways to watch the Masters this year. You can go to CBSSports.com (look for the impossible-to-miss "Watch: Masters Live" notice and click). CBS is the television broadcaster for the tournament—has been for years and years—and offers the online stream as part of that agreement.
You can also go straight to the source, at Masters.com, and watch it there. This is my preferred option, because the interface is much more slick (but CBS has the same streams). You can watch just Amen Corner (the famous stretch of holes that tie the front nine to the back nine, historically the most challenging holes on the course), you can watch just Holes 15 and 16 (iconic holes at Augusta National—Tiger's infamous chip-in from 2005 was on Hole 16, and I'll share the video from that below because it's awesome), or you can choose to follow the "featured group," which right now appears to be Mike Weir's group. There is also a channel for Interviews, and another for Masters Extras. For a golf fan stuck at work… the Masters.com website is a treasure trove of goodies.
Tiger also made waves in the online video today with a new viral ad from Nike. Some are calling it creepy. Others are saying it's an odd way to for Nike to show both their loyalty to Tiger as well as their condemnation of his behavior. I am calling it genius, because it has nearly a million views in less than a day, and everyone is talking about Tiger Woods and Nike (seriously… check your favorite sports talk radio show or telecast and you'll see what I mean). It's a black and white image of Tiger set to a voice over by his late father. Check it out:
Tiger Woods has long been one of the most recognizable faces on the planet. His recent trouble with infidelity and PR, while worthy of criticism, have only served to pique the public's interest about him even more. While some fans have been turned off enough by his personal struggles to stop following his sporting career, even more viewers will flock to the event just to see what happens. Will he be heckled? Will he dominate? Will the paparazzi snap pictures during his back-swing?
I'm guessing it'll be the most-viewed Masters event in history, and I'll be particularly interested to see what kind of viewership numbers the online stream achieves. My gut tells me it will mirror the NCAA's online offering and have its highest totals ever. Again I'll suggest that we're fast approaching a day when the online viewers equal and/or outnumber the television viewers.
Since I'm writing today about The Masters, and I write daily about online video, this is the perfect chance to squeeze in one of my favorite YouTube clips of all time, Tiger's 2005 chip-in at The Masters on the 16th hole. Say what you will about Tiger's public life and infidelity, this has to be one of the most thrilling moments in televised golf history, and I'm thrilled to have been watching the tournament live when it happened.