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The Inside Track

Masters Stays Commercial-Free

June 04, 2003|Thomas Bonk

There won't be any commercial breaks at next year's Masters, either.

Hootie Johnson, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, said Tuesday that the 2004 Masters telecast will be commercial free for the second year in a row. The tournament, won by Mike Weir two months ago, attracted 34.5 million viewers and was the third most-watched Masters.

Last year, Johnson made the decision to put Citigroup, IBM and Coca-Cola on the sidelines as part of the club's strategy in its battle with Martha Burk of the National Council of Women's Organizations, which is waging a campaign to force the club to admit a female member.

There was no mention made of Burk in a news release from the club Tuesday. Insiders say the corporations were not consulted before the decision and did not participate in any discussion.

"There were many aspects of last year's broadcast that were favorable," Johnson said in the statement. "The response from our TV viewers about the ability to watch strictly golf was very favorable."

The Masters has a long history of limiting its commercial time on its telecasts on CBS, permitting only four minutes of commercials an hour. Unwilling to put the tournament's sponsors in the middle in his confrontation with Burk, Johnson cut out all commercials for the 2003 Masters. At the time, he said the Masters could continue without its television sponsors "indefinitely."

Burk is on vacation and unavailable for comment.

-- Thomas Bonk

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