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Tiger Woods boosts TV, playing or not

What's a surer bet than Tiger Woods making the cut at the Masters? CBS showing as much as possible of golf's biggest attraction.

"When Tiger Woods enters a tournament and when he is in contention in the final round, we see a 30 to 50 percent increase over what is the 'normal' rating," said Neal Pilson, the head of a sports TV consulting company and former president of CBS Sports.

"He draws people who don't normally watch golf."

The numbers, as they say, don't lie.

When Woods won the 1997 Masters by a record 12 strokes, CBS showed 66 of his 69 final-round shots and earned a 14.1 rating -- the highest percentage of U.S. TV households to watch a Masters final round -- and a whopping 34 share. The share is the percentage of televisions tuned to a particular broadcast.

And last year? With Woods a mere afterthought, finishing tied for 18th at Augusta National behind winner Jose Maria Olazabal, CBS settled for a 10.1 rating with a 22 share Sunday.

Weekend TV ratings for all men's golf -- PGA Tour, Senior Tour and other tourneys -- were up 10 percent this year through last weekend, evidence of Woods' effect on the sport.

CBS' coverage of golf this year has averaged a 3.9 rating, higher than every year but one since 1987. CBS' golf broadcasts in 1996, the year before Woods emerged, averaged a 2.5 to this point in the season.

"I don't ever remember an athlete, whether it's in a team sport or individual sport, I guess with the exception of Michael Jordan, who can so dramatically affect the amount of people watching a tournament," CBS Sports president Sean McManus said. "It's true at the regular PGA Tour events and it's certainly true at the major events, also."

Woods' appeal -- based on his ability and charisma -- certainly extends beyond the majors.

When he failed in his bid to win a seventh straight PGA Tour event at February's Buick Invitational, the final-round ratings were higher than those for any U.S. Open or British Open in the past 15 years.

Woods has been in contention a lot lately, finishing first or second in 10 of 11 events heading to Augusta.

"Tiger's effect on golf is even greater than Michael Jordan's was on the NBA," McManus said. "His effect on television and the viewership of professional golf is almost impossible to overestimate."

Since Woods joined the PGA Tour in 1996, hundreds of millions of new dollars have flowed into golf, including increases in TV contracts -- the PGA Tour's TV deal, which started in 1999, is worth about twice the previous one -- and what advertisers pay for air time.

"His impact is mind-boggling," said Larry Novenstern, director of sports marketing at advertising agency BBDO. "His presence at a golf tournament drives the price (of commercials) up artificially."

Even when Woods isn't playing in an event or has been out of contention, CBS' golf coverage this year has gained a 3.3 rating -- better than the overall numbers for 1996-98. When he's been in the running, that has jumped to a 4.8, a 45 percent increase.

Woods is most popular on television among men 18-34. Viewership in that group -- a key demographic -- has increased 89 percent in 2000 when Woods is in fifth place or better.

"It would be foolish and probably untruthful for anyone in the world of golf television to say they cover Tiger Woods the same way they cover anyone else," NBC golf anchor Dan Hicks said.

"You have to be aware of anything Tiger Woods is doing anywhere on the golf course because of the comebacks he's capable of."

 

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