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FedEx Cup tweaks start times

Scheduling conflicts will force the final two FedEx Cup playoff events to move up their time windows to accommodate NBC’s commitment to air Notre Dame home football games, which could further affect television ratings for events that will already suffer from the absence of Tiger Woods.

Golf ratings for tournaments generally increase as the television window stretches into early evening in the Eastern time zone. Weekend Nielsen ratings for nonmajors that Woods played in 2007, and missed this year due to injury, have dropped about 33 percent.

“It will be interesting to see the ratings,” said tournament director John Kaczkowski, whose BMW Championship is affected by the conflict. “I always thought most people run errands on Saturday afternoons, and when they come home they check the golf tournament.”

NBC needs earlier start times
to accommodate its coverage
of Notre Dame football.

Saturday coverage of most PGA Tour events runs from 3 to 6 p.m. ET, but the BMW Championship and Tour Championship will move tee times up nearly three hours so the conclusion of Saturday’s rounds fit NBC’s 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. window.

The Sept. 4-7 BMW Championship is the third event in the playoffs and conflicts with the Notre Dame-San Diego State game. The season-ending Tour Championship, Sept. 25-28, runs up against Notre Dame-Purdue.

Tour and NBC officials were aware of the potential Notre Dame time conflicts when they signed a six-year television rights deal that began with the introduction of the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2007.

The Notre Dame contract states that NBC must air September games at 3:30 p.m. ET, according to NBC officials, a stipulation that is also included in the new five-year NBC/Notre Dame extension starting in 2011.

There were no scheduling conflicts in the first year of the FedEx Cup, when average ratings data showed that playoff golf featuring Woods held its own against the Golden Dome.

Only one Notre Dame game last year went head-to-head with network coverage of a FedEx Cup event. On that Saturday, NBC pulled a 2.6 rating for third-round coverage of the Tour Championship, beating ABC’s 2.5 for a Notre Dame game at Michigan.

Notre Dame games last year averaged a 1.9 Nielsen rating on NBC, down 40 percent from the year before. Third- and fourth-round coverage of NBC’s three FedEx Cup playoff events averaged a 2.9 rating.

Tour and NBC officials said there will be other scheduling conflicts between playoff events and Notre Dame games in the remaining four years of the tour’s television contract.

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