Woods searches for his first victory following a sex scandalThe August 12, 2010, By Zane Plate
Tiger Woods was heading out of Ohio by the time live final-round television coverage of last week’s Bridgestone Invitational began.;
That’s become a familiar occurrence as Woods searches for his first victory since a five-month break from golf following a sex scandal. It’s drawn the attention of television networks, led by CBS Corp., the sport’s leading broadcaster with 21 tournaments on the U.S. PGA Tour, including this week’s PGA Championship.
Ratings for the past two events on CBS -- the Greenbrier Classic and the Bridgestone -- have declined as much as 68 percent from the events held the same weeks a year ago, when Woods won them both. During his 13-year reign over the sport, Woods drove up the value of television contracts to as high as the four-year, $850 million deal that expired after the 2006 season, an increase CBS President Sean McManus termed “inflated.” With the PGA Tour’s current contracts with CBS and NBC set to run out in 2012, that value may soon deflate. The tour’s contract with Comcast Corp.’s Golf Channel expires in 2021.
“This is a business, and right now the networks are nervous,” Brad Adgate, research director at Horizon Media, a New York-based advertising company, said in a telephone interview.
Negotiations on new contracts likely won’t begin in earnest until next year. McManus said he will keep a close eye on Woods, the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking and the sport’s most valuable commodity.
“Fortunately, we have a couple more years to go, but we have to monitor the Tiger situation very carefully and see how often he is in contention and then factor that into all the other variables and try to quantify when you’re putting a value on a sports property,” McManus said on a media conference call on Aug. 9. “You have to try to figure out what the intelligent bid is.”
Ratings alone don’t determine future contracts, McManus said. He is also relying on the return on core golf advertisers, such as the financial institutions that have shied away from the sport due to government criticism over the past two years.
“That marketplace, having been very depressed in ‘08 and ’09, has come back very strong this year,” McManus said. “So I would say that’s a positive factor.”