SBD/Issue 126/Sports Media

McManus: Tiger's Return Will Be Among Biggest Stories This Decade

McManus, CBS Will Not Dwell
On Non-Golf Issues With Woods

CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus said Tiger Woods' return to competitive golf will be the "biggest media event other than the Obama inauguration in the past 10 or 15 years," according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. McManus said, "It is hard to overestimate how much interest there will be. Woods is the most famous, most recognized, most accomplished athlete in the world, and his celebrity and prominence is even larger than it was. ... Whatever he does on the golf course for the first time since Thanksgiving will be of interest to almost every man and women in this country." Deitsch noted that "might not be hyperbole when you consider" the amount of interest in Woods' public apology last month. Fifteen U.S. networks aired the address live, including all broadcast networks, and "more than 6.5 million viewers tuned in to watch on the cable networks alone." An estimate that 20 million people watched the apology in some form is "probably low given social media." McManus said CBS will "primarily report on what is happening at the golf tournament" when Woods returns. McManus: "I don't think there is a lot of reason to dwell on what has happened in the past because it is one of the most exploited and overexposed stories in recent memory." McManus said that he initially told his broadcasters, including Nick Faldo, "not to speculate or give their opinion on what was happening with Tiger prior to the start of the PGA season." But he added, "That ceased as soon as the PGA Tour got underway and as soon as we did our first tournament. I told Nick: Say whatever it is you want to say about Tiger Woods. Having ... said that, I also said to other broadcasters unless Tiger Woods is a part of this story, I don't think there is a great need to give your opinion. ... But once we are doing a golf tournament, whether Tiger is in it or not, our announcers are free to express their opinion and there is no direction or advice on how and when to express that" (SI.com, 3/14).

SITTIN' ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY: Some reports have suggested Woods may make his PGA Tour return next week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes the event on NBC faces a "pretty high TV seed" airing opposite CBS' coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. But Woods' return "could turn TV viewing upside down that weekend." NBC's Johnny Miller argues that Bay Hill "would provide a sufficiently competitive tuneup and allow Woods to get 'all the hoopla ... behind him.'" Playing at Bay Hill could potentially "let Woods have a big impact on TV ratings in two sports" (USA TODAY, 3/15). Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year in just his third tournament back from knee surgery, and NBC earned a 4.4 Nielsen rating for its final-round coverage from 2:30-8:00pm. CBS averaged a 6.0 rating from 2:10-7:18pm for the Michigan State-Louisville and North Carolina-Oklahoma regional finals (THE DAILY). WFAN-AM's Joe Benigno: "I'll tell you one thing: If it's Bay Hill, if it's the Masters, the ratings are going to be off the charts" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 3/12). Golf.com Deputy Editor Dave Dusek said Woods' comeback "will get nearly Super Bowl-type ratings and attention. For golf in general, the buzz will be instantaneous" ("Today," NBC, 3/13).

READY FOR THE CIRCUS TO ROLL INTO TOWN: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem appeared on NBC’s coverage of the WGC-CA Championship yesterday and discussed Woods’ return, which several reports last week had at either the Arnold Palmer Invitational or The Masters. Finchem said, “I get this question about 300 times a day, and I think that's good because since his statement, that's what everybody's talking about. Everybody's done looking back at the circumstances that resulted in him stepping away from the game and they're focused on when he's going to play golf and I think that's really good.” Finchem said Woods’ apology last month shows the “extent of the media show that this will be when he first steps back, and so he recognizes that and his people recognize that and we will get some good notice (as to his return date).” Finchem: “I think if he's going to play at the end of March we'll hear pretty soon because he recognizes we need time to deal with it, although we feel like we're prepared in any particular week that he comes back. … I’m as excited as anybody else to see him back. I hope it's this spring, but my sense is we'll know pretty soon" ("WGC-CA Championship," NBC, 3/14).

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