SBD/Issue 131/Sports Media

Tiger Grants Quick Five-Minute Interviews To ESPN, Golf Channel

Wade Says CBS Declined
Interview Over Time Limit

Tiger Woods yesterday gave two five-minute, 21-question interviews "orchestrated by his representatives," first with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi, then with Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman, who were allowed to "ask Woods any questions in that limited time frame," according to Diane Pucin of the L.A. TIMES. The interviews aired simultaneously" at 7:30pm ET, and execs from both networks said that the timing was in accordance with "instructions from Woods' representatives." ESPN Senior VP & Dir of News Vince Doria and Golf Channel Managing Dir of PR Dan Higgins said that they were "contacted Friday by Woods' representatives." CBS Sports Senior VP/Communications LeslieAnne Wade said that CBS "also was offered a five-minute interview but turned it down" because the network "didn't want a time limit." Doria said, "The understanding on our part was that there would be no restrictions on questions. We felt accepting the interview even with the restrictions best served our viewers." ESPN was "aware that Golf Channel would be interviewing Woods as well." Doria: "That was fine with us. Any one-on-one you get serves the viewer." Doria noted that neither ESPN nor Golf Channel were "allowed to publicize the interviews until" 6:30pm yesterday (L.A. TIMES, 3/22).

BEHIND THE SCENES: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand reports ESPN and Golf Channel "got to pick their interviewers." When asked if it is "unusual for subjects to dictate interview lengths and air times," ESPN VP/Communications Mike Soltys said, "It's not very common. But this circumstance isn't very common either." Higgins: "Every circumstance is different." Meanwhile, CBS' Wade said of Woods, "Depending on the specifics, we are interested in an extended interview without any restrictions on CBS." Hiestand writes, "At least CBS showed that while networks will fetch every Woods shot with their cameras, they don't always have to roll over" (USA TODAY, 3/22). An ESPN spokesperson said, "We really had two main things that were most important. No. 1, no restrictions on questions and No. 2, we chose the interviewer" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/22). In DC, Barry Svrluga notes Woods' interviews were held "five days after he announced he would return to competitive golf April 8 at the Masters and more than a month after he spoke publicly for the first time since details of his personal life became public" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/22).

DID CBS MISS ITS CHANCE? SPORTINGNEWS.com's Dan Levy writes he is "stunned CBS didn't agree" to the interview, knowing that "someone else would." Levy: "If ESPN and Golf Channel are getting 5 minutes with the athlete at the center of the biggest story in sports -- and gossip and news -- why is 5 minutes not better than nothing for CBS? What point is CBS proving by turning down this interview? Are they setting a tone for future interviews, taking the loss on Tiger Woods so they can stick to their 'integrity' for the next big exclusive? Why wouldn't CBS simply trust one of its reporters to get the information they demand out of Woods in five minutes? Five minutes is plenty of time to ask something" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 3/22).

BREAKING OFF COMMUNICATION: Golf Channel during its coverage last night also reported Ari Fleischer has "decided to withdraw his services" from Woods, because Fleischer felt like he was "becoming the story" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/22). Golf Channel's John Hawkins: "Tiger is a pretty sharp guy. Mark Steinberg is a very sharp guy. I think they had probably gotten something out of Mr. Fleischer's services and then found a reason for them to part ways" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 3/21). FOXSPORTS.com's Robert Lusetich wrote, "The reality is that Fleischer had to leave because his very presence gave the impression that Woods was being stage-managed in his return to the public eye" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/22).

PUT ON THE CLOCK: In N.Y., Dorman & Sandomir write Woods yesterday was "far more relaxed and animated than he was during his live 15-minute apology last month." But while the questions were "as probative as the format allowed, Woods did not reveal a great deal more than he had in his original apology." Doria said that he "tried to argue for more time but that there was no negotiating room." Doria: "The alternative was not to do the interview, and that wouldn't serve our viewers" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22). Tilghman said, "Unfortunately, in a five-minute span, you basically have to come up with the questions that you hope will satisfy the majority of the public." She said Woods "took the questions and he answered them the way he wanted to," and he "just came across as a guy who's been through a lot." Tilghman: "I believe that he will keep the truth of what happened (the night of the accident) close to him for the rest of his life" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21). Fifteen Minutes PR CEO Howard Bragman: "I don't know why he wanted to limit (the interview) to five minutes. He was standing up like he couldn't wait to run away from this interview" ("GMA," ABC, 3/22). GOLFWEEK.com's Jim McCabe wrote, "It's easy to pounce on Kelly Tilghman and Tom Rinaldi for what questions they didn’t ask -- and surely some good ones weren’t pursued -- but best to keep in mind that they had but five minutes" (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/21).

Writers Agree Tilghman Did The Best
She Could Under The Time Constraints

WORKING WELL UNDER PRESSURE: In St. Petersburg, Tom Jones wrote Rinaldi and Tilghman "did the best they could under the heavy time constraints, but neither were able to ask thorough follow-up questions to evasive or generic answers." They were "forced to stay on script and keep the interviews moving forward, unable to press Woods on any of his answers." Rinaldi was "masterful." His questions "came rapid fire, even cutting off Woods a couple of times to get as much out of Woods as he could in the precious time he had" (TAMPABAY.com, 3/21). In Toronto, Chris Zelkovich wrote Tilghman "got a lot out of Woods and asked a lot of tough questions considering the constraints, but at no point did it appear that Tiger was surprised by any of her questions or caught off guard." Zelkovich: "Given what she had to work with, Tilghman did about as well as could be expected" (THESTAR.com, 3/21). YAHOO SPORTS' Brian Murphy wrote the five-minute time limit "prevented any conversation of substance, any follow-up question and any semblance of conversational pace." The time limit "also forced a stressed Rinaldi into a rhythm that felt a little like a lightning round from an old game show." Rinaldi and Tilghman "did as well as they could in the 300 allotted seconds," but Tilghman's interview was "slightly more productive." It appeared Woods was "more relaxed with Tilghman than with Rinaldi" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/21). CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS' Ed Sherman writes Rinaldi and Tilghman "did a commendable job trying to squeeze all their questions in five minutes," and they "each got some decent answers" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 3/22).

STRONG PERFORMANCES: FOXSPORTS.com's Lusetich writes Woods is "both familiar and comfortable" with Rinaldi and Tilghman, "not that they soft-balled him, because they didn't." They asked the "tough questions, even if Woods wasn't answering all of them." But while the interviews were a "good first step, where Woods and his handlers went wrong was in limiting the interviews to five minutes" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/22). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes both Rinaldi and Tilghman "asked tough but legitimate questions, especially given the ridiculous 5-minute time limit." Bianchi: "I thought Rinaldi's question -- 'Why did you get married?' -- was the singularly toughest question that was asked" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 3/22). In Boston, Steve Buckley writes Tilghman "redefined the term 'no-nonsense mode'" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/22). SI's Jim Herre writes Tilghman "surprisingly ... did a much better job than" Rinaldi. Woods "seemed much more comfortable with Tilghman and was more expansive with his answers." Golf.com's David Dusek writes Woods was "more relaxed with Kelly Tilghman, smiling at the end after talking about his Buddhist bracelet for strength and protection" (GOLF.com, 3/22).

Rinaldi Receives Praise For
Handling Of Woods Interview

TWITTER REVIEWS: The N.Y. Times' Don Van Natta Jr. wrote, "Tom Rinaldi of ESPN did a much better job than GC's Kelly Tilghman. …Tom Rinaldi did the near-impossible. In 5 minutes, he extracted a massive amount of new information and riveting drama." SI's Richard Deitsch wrote, "That is an excellent job by Tom Rinaldi given the time restrictions. Controlled the interview. Stayed on points. Well done." The San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami: "Thought Rinaldi & Tilghman did fine jobs in their rushed Tiger interviews." SI's Tom Bowles: "Tiger Woods' interview is intriguing ... but even classier is Tom Rinaldi's afterwards. Classy and impartial... Well done." Score Golf Equipment & Business Analyst Rick Young: "To Kelly Tilghman of G.C. and Tom Rinaldi of ESPN.....a tip of the cap....considering the 5 minute window with Tiger..... brilliant work." WOI-ABC's Dave Zawilinski: "Phenomenal interview by Tom Rinaldi. Guy is a true professional and a great story teller."

ALL PART OF THE STRATEGY: In N.Y., George Willis writes the interviews "clearly were intended to quell some of the media frenzy that will greet him at Augusta," as Woods "will be able to say he has already answered many of those questions and the answers aren't going to change." Woods' need for "control was evident" in the interviews. He "chose an ally in Tilghman" (N.Y. POST, 3/22). The ST. PETERSBURG TIMES' Jones wrote, "You can see Woods' PR strategy. He has now given a 12-minute statement and two interviews where the interviewers could ask anything they wanted. In his mind, he has accepted responsibility, apologized for his actions and answered questions from the media. ... You wonder if Woods' hope is the public grows tired of the story and turns on the media for continuing to pursue it" (TAMPABAY.com, 3/21). Syracuse Univ. Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture Dir Robert Thompson said of Woods' brief appearances since taking an indefinite leave from professional golf, "What little he has done, he has been smart. The less said, the better. The more you talk, the more chances you are able to get into trouble" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/22).

HAS TO BE IN CONTROL: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's John Paul Newport wrote the interviews gave viewers a "chance to see Mr. Woods in a less scripted situation than his public reading of an apology Feb. 19." The interviews were "clearly part of a broader, planned strategy for easing back into the public eye." They had the "feel of being trial balloons, as if Mr. Woods were testing -- in a highly controlled circumstance -- how he, his interlocutors and the public would respond to public questioning" (WSJ.com, 3/21). USA Today's Christine Brennan said Woods "is still a control freak" ("GMA," ABC, 3/22). CBSSPORTS.com's Steve Elling wrote Woods is "still pulling the strings, issuing quotes in dollops and dashes, and he's already indicated that answers will not be forthcoming on several key fronts." Meanwhile, "surprisingly, neither network asked Woods about his relationship to" Dr. Anthony Galea, who "has ties to HGH use and is the subject of an investigation in two countries" (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/21).

Transitions Exec Less Than Thrilled That Interviews
Aired As Furyk Was Putting On 18th Green

STEALING HIS THUNDER: ESPN.com's Harig noted the interviews aired on ESPN and Golf Channel "while Jim Furyk was on the 18th green, two putts away from his 14th career PGA Tour victory" at the Transitions Championship. The interviews aired "just as the weather-delayed tournament was coming to an end" on NBC, which "did not interrupt coverage nor did it reference Woods." Transitions Managing Dir David Cole: "I would say that given our partnership with the Golf Channel, we are a little bit disappointed that they chose to air that story at the conclusion of a very exciting tournament. We invest a lot of money in the Transitions Championship as a title sponsor." Furyk: "I can live with it and I'm fine with it. Some day it's all going to go away, and I'll be fine with that, as well." Harig noted ESPN and Golf Channel "had begun promoting the interviews" at 6:30pm (ESPN.com, 3/21).

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