Insiders suggest that all this is part of a pattern—that interest in golf is on the wane—but Deane Beman, the PGA tour commissioner, disagrees. He notes that the ratings for his events did not go down last year from 1978, when the figure was also 5.4. And he points to TV factors that played a part in the decrease in ratings since 1975.
When ABC regularly telecast PGA events, its highly rated Wide World of Sports show provided a big lead-in audience for golf. But when ABC dropped PGA golf after 1978 (retaining the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and British Open), some of the tournaments that moved to CBS and NBC suffered in the ratings because they had to go up against Wide World. In addition, ABC golf telecasts had occupied a "ratings-desirable" later time slot because ABC Sports had control of the network until 7 p.m. EST; NBC and CBS must yield to the news at 6 p.m. and, thus, program golf at less desirable earlier times. Also, bad weather in the Northeast and Midwest raises the early-season golf ratings, and last winter it was relatively mild in those areas.
Curiously, despite Jastrow's comments about ABC superiority, ABC's ratings for the U.S. Open and the PGA fell off most of all, the Open dropping from a 5.8 in 1978 to a 5.3—"less than the rating we got for our Western Open telecast," says Chirkinian gleefully.
For the new golf season that started with the NBC telecast of the Bob Hope Desert Classic last weekend (page 84), both NBC and CBS are adding innovations. NBC is putting in a third roving camera to bolster its close-up coverage from behind the golfers and doing profiles of 10 of the top young pros to enhance their fan appeal. CBS is adding a sports-magazine segment at the opening of each telecast that will include player profiles and reports on the tour. Both networks will feature the PGA's new round-by-round statistics in eight categories—driving distance, birdie percentage, eagle and birdie leaders, etc.—which Beman says should spotlight golfers' strengths and give them public identity.
If all this looks like a response to Jastrow's criticisms, Chirkinian counters that it is a natural outgrowth of the current golf situation, in which there is a need to play up the new names that dot the leader board almost every week. "When Mr. Jastrow makes up his mind whether he's a part-time actor in beer commercials or a bona fide production entity in television," says Chirkinian, "then I'll listen to what he has to say."