Whatever economic boost we got from those stimulus checks was probably shot to heck by the complete lack of productivity in American offices this afternoon. But we’ll make no apologies for tuning it to see Tiger Woods‘ sudden death win over Rocco Mediate at the U.S. Open. (Bit of an anti-climactic ending. We figured Tiger would win it on a 75-foot eagle putt and then jump into the water head first.)
NBC, of course, could not possible be happier. Sunday’s fourth round (shown in primetime) scored an 8.5 rating, up 21 percent from last year. When Woods holed a birdie putt to force an 18-hole playoff today, the rating shot to 13.5. Only 2002 at Bethpage and 2000 at Pebble Beach scored higher ratings for the U.S. Open.
Last year, I was at one of those cocktail party events that I normally hate and met a guy who often appears on NBC’s golf coverage. (I’ll refrain from giving his name since I’m sure he assumed we were chatting informally.) I politely told him that I enjoyed his work and all he did for NBC, and that I had written about NBC’s sports coverage in the past.
“What little sports we have,” he said, shaking his head.
At the time, he was sort of correct. NBC had lost the NBA and NASCAR, hadn’t had baseball in years, NHL ratings were horrid, and it had just one NFL game per week. Its only college football coverage was of Notre Dame and it had no college basketball. So I did sort of sympathize with the guy; NBC Sports was a little bit depressing.
But let’s look at the situation now. NBC just got five straight days of Tiger Woods, including a Saturday performance that will go down as one of the best in history. It just finished airing an NHL Stanley Cup Finals that had the highest ratings in quite a while. It had Big Brown’s first two races. It had the French Open with Nadal and Federer, and Wimbledon is coming up. And in two months, it will have what might become the biggest Summer Olympic games in history.
NBC will never catch ABC/ESPN, and still lags behind Fox. But it’s doing quite well with the sports properties it has right now.