NEW YORK --- Television viewership will fall without Tiger Woods, but the networks that air the sport and the PGA Tour itself can handle the setback.
That's the word from several media analysts and the president of CBS Sports, which is facing the possibility of covering the Masters Tournament just weeks from now with golf's biggest star absent.
"We're all looking forward to him coming back, but until then we're doing perfectly fine," said Sean McManus, the president of CBS News and CBS Sports.
Tournaments in which Woods isn't playing generally suffer a drop in viewership and a loss of ad revenue, notes Larry Novenstern, the executive vice president of Optimedia.
For the 15 or so tournaments where Woods might have been expected to play this year, Novenstern estimated the resulting advertising loss to networks would total between $10 million and $20 million. In comparison to other economic hardships challenging broadcasters right now, he said, "This is just a speed bump."
"Golf does better economically when Tiger is a major force on the PGA tour," he said, "but golf is still a valuable product for us."
There's no question Woods delivers a ratings kick for any tournament he plays in, ranging from 20 percent to as much as 50 percent.
"But a certain percent of Tiger's audience is not the traditional golf audience and, in effect, is not what many advertisers are looking for," says Neal Pilson, the president of Pilson Communications, a media consulting firm, and a former president of CBS Sports. "If Tiger's in an event, you expect a 50 percent increase in ratings. You don't necessarily negotiate a 50 percent increase in the advertising rate."
Many of the advertisers are so-called "endemics" -- brands such as Callaway, Titleist and Nike that target products and messages specifically toward golf devotees.
"There's a strong, economically secure core audience for golf, and there is no indication that they have left," Pilson says. "The more casual audience that follows Tiger probably won't be back until he comes back again."
There are signs that not all is bad for golf broadcasters. The first three tournaments of 2009 and 2010 were both without Woods, but the ratings for those events this year show an audience growth of 29 percent.