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Bucs begin to reverse decline in viewership

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published November 4, 2005


The Bucs picked a bad week to lay such a monumentally-sized egg against San Francisco, as more viewers were tuned in for the performance than any other this season.

In fact, more people were tuned in than at any time last season as well. The 34.6 local rating for Sunday's late game was the Bucs best since Week 13 of 2003, when they pulled a 38.0. The 34.6 was also the fifth-best rating for a metered market in the country.

The Bucs drew boffo ratings in their Super Bowl season but have seen a steady decline since. Last year was disappointing, especially toward the end of the season.

Winning cures all, though. This year, Bucs' ratings are up 13 percent over last year, from a 27.1 rating to 30.7.

PLAYOFF PAYOFF: The PGA Tour's decision to implement a playoff beginning in 2007 is a bold - and necessary - stroke.

With dwindling television ratings for its end of the year tournaments (read: anything after the last major), the PGA is hoping a playoff sparks enough interest to make it a viable Sunday afternoon event.

After all, it worked for NASCAR, which saw its ratings improve 10 percent after adding its 10-race playoff last year. Those numbers are up only slightly this year, no doubt dulled by the absence of some big stars, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Which brings us back to golf's biggest problem - Tiger Woods, or a lack thereof.

When Woods plays, people watch. But it seems that after the last major, Woods goes into hiding and takes the sport with him.

A playoff would ensure the game's biggest name keeps his clubs out of the garage until the end of the playoff, and as long as he's in the mix, golf is destined for better ratings.

Throw in a little playoff excitement, and the PGA can have a fall and winter winner.

Golf will never compete with the NFL, but it can co-exist with a playoff to make people, most notably Woods, care.

RING OF FIRE: According to Television Week, ESPN has three scripted projects in development, including a series called Hit Men that is described as a Playmakers-type series based on boxing.

ESPN saw outstanding ratings for its Contender rematch, and its Friday Night Fights series had increased numbers in 2005 as well, so a boxing series could be a hit.

Best of all, boxing has no real commissioner, unlike football, which made ESPN cower with its threats and unhappiness over Playmakers, leading to the cancellation of that series.

The other projects reportedly in the works are a behind-the-scenes look at NASCAR and something on a basketball team in a juvenile detention center. Television Week says none of the projects has been greenlighted, though, since the programming division is in flux with the departure of executive vice president Mark Shapiro.