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How Golf Channel’s ‘Arnie’ Became a Social and Ratings Success

arnie_304In April, Golf Channel’s three-night event about the life of Arnold Palmer, ‘Arnie,’ became the most watched original production in the network’s history. Between April 13 and April 15, 1.75 million unique viewers tuned in – no small feat for a niche sports channel.

#Arnie trended on Twitter during all three premieres, and as part of Golf Channel’s social strategy, they created a social hub for fans to submit stories and photos about Palmer; the microsite is sponsored by Callaway Golf. The hub collects Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts that use the hashtag #Arnie.

Based on both the ratings and social success of the three-part series, Golf Channel last week announced that they will be producing a fourth Arnold Palmer special. According to ‘The Hollywood Reporter,’ the next installment will be based mainly on fan submissions  (similar to last year’s Bruce Springsteen documentary ‘Springsteen & I’) – accepted via and snail mail.

For more on the success of ‘Arnie,’ we spoke with Susie Lokey, Senior Director of Marketing, Golf Channel.

Lost Remote: What has the idea behind creating a social hub for Arnie?

Susie Lokey: Arnie’s Army, the moniker used by Arnold Palmer fans for decades, is a passionate group, so we knew the release of our three-night television event, Arnie, would be highly discussed among fans. With that in mind, we created the social hub to make it easy for all fans to engage in dialogue with other fans, reminisce about their favorite Arnie moments & let us know their thoughts about the film.

LR: What has the social response been like so far?

Lokey: The response has been overwhelmingly positive, with thousands of fan submissions via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and e-mail. We have seen not only an overwhelming response from Palmer’s fans, but a new generation of people discovering the golf icon, evident by the fact that Arnie trended on Twitter all three nights of its premiere run. From everyday golfers to golf professionals, the social media conversation around Arnie has grown over time.

LR: How does Golf Channel intend to use the fan-submitted photos and videos over the coming months?

Lokey: Our social media team has reviewed every fan submission and will be working closely with the Golf Channel Films production group to provide all submissions for consideration for use in future productions on Golf Channel.  Our viewers are the heartbeat of the network, so we hope to highlight their fandom by showing curated submissions on-air.

LR:  Do you think that #Arnie trending on Twitter during the first night of the three-night event had a direct response on the record-setting ratings?

Lokey: Though direct correlation between ratings and social conversation is not clearly measurable, we do see a connection between high social media volume and ratings. The hashtag #Arnie trended all three days of the premieres, yielding the most-watched original production in network history. We know some fans saw the social conversation around Arnie and tuned in to learn more about the man who many think transcends golf and is an American icon.

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