SBD/Issue 64/Sports Media

Tiger On Hiatus: Length Of Break A Concern For Tour TV Partners

Networks Wondering How Long Woods'
"Indefinite" Break From Golf Will Be
The reaction of PGA Tour television partners to the news that Tiger Woods will take an indefinite break from professional golf included "concern about the duration of Woods's hiatus," according to Larry Dorman of the N.Y. TIMES. CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said the network will "adjust and life will go on, but a tournament with Tiger Woods is a much bigger sport." McManus: "We've obviously done golf tournaments without Tiger before, but we all know how much better they do when Tiger is playing well on the weekend. We'll adjust, but I guess a lot of it depends on what the definition of the word 'indefinite' is" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/12). The AP's Rachel Cohen notes the Tour's six-year deals with CBS and NBC "expire in 2012, and negotiations are expected to begin late next year." By the time the talks start, the networks "might have a better sense of the scenario, good or bad." If Woods "has already returned to the tour, they'll be able to gauge the effect of the scandal on ratings and his level of play." However, the "longer he stays out, the more uncertainty will permeate the negotiations." Former Magna Global Exec VP/Audience Analysis Steve Sternberg said in an e-mail, "If Tiger returns to golf and performs well, ratings will remain high. But if he is not back yet, it will definitely impact how much the networks will be willing to pay" (AP, 12/14).

RATINGS RICHES: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's James Hibberd writes, "If and when Woods does return to the game, it's certain to spike viewership -- at least initially." But analysts said that over the long term, the scandal "could have a lasting negative impact" on golf's popularity. Campbell Mithun Senior VP & Dir of Media Analysis John Rash: "While there will be keen interest in Tiger's first tournament back, overall ratings will likely decline as the casual golf viewer who was enticed by Tiger's personal and professional persona will now most likely view him differently" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 12/14). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds wrote advertisers "only interested in grabbing [gross rating points] should hedge their media schedules, making sure their buys include a position on Golf Channel's opening-round Thursday coverage upon Woods's return." That telecast "will obliterate" all of Golf Channel's Nielsen records (MULTICHANNEL.com, 12/13).

NBC Addresses Woods Situation During Its
Coverage Of Shark Shootout This Weekend
ON THE AIR: NBC addressed the Woods situation in the early stages of its coverage of the PGA Tour Shark Shootout on both Saturday and Sunday. NBC's Dan Hicks yesterday noted the "golf world and beyond (are) still reacting to the latest statement" from Woods. Hicks: "It's anyone's guess when he's going to come back to this sport. Only Tiger and his family will eventually decide that." Woods' situation was revisited at the conclusion of the broadcast, with Hicks saying, "As you look back at 2009, really what will be most remembered is what really happened outside the golf course and what has transpired with Tiger Woods." Hicks: "The big question as we look forward to 2010 is what kind of reception will Tiger get?" NBC's Gary Koch: "It will certainly be an interesting year" ("Shark Shootout," NBC, 12/13). In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones noted Koch and analyst Roger Maltbie both touched on the situation, and, "to the shock of no one, seemed to show support for Woods." Koch said that "everyone he talks to is tired of the story" (TAMPABAY.com, 12/13).

TV MONITOR: Last night's edition of NBC's "Nightly News" led with a report on Accenture dropping their sponsorship agreement with Woods. ABC's "World News" discussed Woods prior to the first commercial break; CBS' "Evening News" did not air due to NFL coverage. All the network morning shows today covered the Woods story in the opening half-hour, with CBS' "The Early Show" and NBC's "Today" addressing it as their second news report (THE DAILY).

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