Monday, April 12, 2010

Ratings Rush

It's Journalism Week here at Ole Miss, so my time is somewhat limited, but I did want to spend a few minutes on the dominant sports story of the weekend.

The Masters golf tournament gave us an instructive lesson in how the sports media succeed today: start with celebrity athletes, throw in some compelling story lines, and then add a dash of dramatic competition. This weekend's Masters had all three and it may end up as the highest rated golf program of all time. Tiger Woods provided the celebrity cache, and his mere presence juiced the first-round TV ratings 50% over last year. By staying in contention all through the weekend, Tiger added drama to Sunday's final round, which was won by another sentimental favorite Phil Mickelson. Mickelson took some time off last year to attend to his wife, who is suffering from breast cancer, so the win had something of a feel-good storybook ending. The end result was another monster ratings win for CBS, which has been on a pretty good roll so far this year.

It was surprising that Tiger played so well, despite his long layoff and the enormous pressure he faces. Golf on TV simply isn't the same without Woods, even if he does occasionally cuss on the course. Tiger promised a different outlook to his game after his fall from grace, but this weekend it looked much like the same old player. For that, the networks, corporate sponsors and the PGA Tour have to be breathing a huge sigh of relief.


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