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DIANE PUCIN / ON SPORTS MEDIA

NBC won't forget about Tiger Woods

Woods lost in first round of match-play event, but network will tell his story over the weekend.

February 27, 2009|Diane Pucin

Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong rule.

That's what all the television ratings numbers and Web hit counters tell us.

It's what NBC understands.

Tiger Woods is out in the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, beaten Thursday by South Africa's Tim Clark. That means Woods won't be playing Saturday and Sunday during live network television coverage of the event, but he'll still be prominent on NBC.

"We'll have to deal with showing what happened to Tiger because this has gone from being a golf tournament to a news event," NBC golf producer Tommy Roy said. "Our weekend telecast will have to deal with showing what happened to Tiger. It will be our duty."

Wednesday's first-round coverage of the match-play event resulted in the highest first-round ratings ever for the Golf Channel. Golf Channel President Page Thompson said the 1.8 rating was up 50% from the same round a year ago. "It was exceptional," Thompson said.

Armstrong's participation in last week's Amgen Tour of California produced some impressive gains for both Versus, the cable network that televised the race, and for a couple of cycling websites. Versus Executive Vice President Marc Fein said the station had 4.3 million viewers last year for the entire race. This year it was 10.5 million viewers.

Cyclingnews.com, based in England, reported it had 2.8 million page views during the Feb. 17 Stage 3, the second most in the site's history behind only one Tour de France mountain stage day. On a typical February day, the site receives 800 page views a day.

VeloNews.com, another popular website for cycling news, recorded a 104% increase in unique page views over last year's Tour of California and over 40,000 more clicks on race video.

But what will happen with each sport when Woods and Armstrong are gone?

Irving Rein, a Northwestern University professor and co-author of the book "The Elusive Fan: Reinventing Sports in a Crowded Marketplace," said there is no magic formula for ensuring continued attention for a sport when a Tiger or Lance walks away.

"We live in a time of star power," Rein said. "Television now tends to tell a story and the idea of an athlete needing a story line in sports has really taken over.

"The NFL draft is a classic example of star manufacturing. They take obscure college kids and lionize them in the draft process so when these players go to individual teams, fans have already identified with them.

"But for golf or cycling, you just can't go out and create the next star."

USC basketball blackout

Not to mangle a Yogi Berra quote, but with USC basketball it is over before it's over, at least as far as watching on television. None of USC's final four regular-season games are being televised and only one, the season finale against Oregon State next Saturday, is being shown on the Trojans' all-access, fee-based website.

Fox Sports didn't choose any of USC's games for broadcast in the next two weeks and because of contractual non-compete reasons the Trojans can't even stream them live on their all-access channel except for that Oregon State game. So if you were trying to find USC-California on Thursday night, you didn't find it unless you were in Northern California and got Comcast. Cal got a waiver from Fox to broadcast the game locally.

USC spokesman Tim Tessalone did say that USC was likely to ask Fox for a waiver so a live feed of next Thursday's Oregon game can be shown on the Trojans' all-access channel.

Good to watch today

There is the Kings-Detroit Red Wings game at 4:30 p.m. on Fox Sports West and if you like ice-based competition and feel like getting into the (pre)Olympic spirit, check out the women's and men's curling Olympic trials on Universal Sports (3 p.m. and 7 p.m. respectively). It's addictive.

Good to watch Saturday

ESPN's college basketball "Game Day" is going to be at Berkeley to hype its telecast of UCLA at California at 6 p.m. The Bruins are sorely in need of some national talking up before the NCAA tournament draw. ESPN is promoting its show coming to the Bay Area because of the return of the Bears' Mike Montgomery to college coaching. Bruins fans, take that as a slight if you'd like.

Good to watch Sunday

The NBA doubleheader on Channel 7 has Boston at Detroit at 10 a.m. and Lakers at Phoenix at 12:30. But what to do? The Dodgers are playing the White Sox at noon on Channel 9, the first telecast from the new spring training headquarters. Lakers or Dodgers, Lakers or Dodgers? At least there's no curling. But the Kings are playing at Chicago at noon on Prime Ticket.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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