On Aug. 2, the network will air the "Showdown in Sherwood," a prime-time event that pits golfer Tiger Woods against top-rated rival David Duval. ABC is selling 30-second spots in the broadcast for $130,000 to $150,000, an eye-opening price tag for a round of televised golf.
Ad executives said ABC has made a number of deals already, and in fact has bidding wars going in some product categories. ABC is promising a healthy 6 to 7 household rating guarantee for the broadcast, and stands to rake in up to $8 million in ad revenue.
But media industry executives are unconvinced the event will be a success, and some marketers said the price tag is "exorbitant."
Critics point to the poor track record of made-for-TV sporting events, and fret that either golfer could go into a slump, diminishing the value of the hyped rivalry.
"It will be shocking how low the rating is," said Roy Currlin, senior VP-group director of national broadcasts at Western Initiative Media Worldwide, New York. "It's not real golf. If history has taught us anything, made-for-TV sports doesn't work."
Indeed, all kinds of TV-only events -- ranging from a race featuring Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson to celebrity volleyball tournaments -- have turned in mediocre ratings results. Still, some say the appeal of Mr. Woods will be a big draw.
The event, to be broadcast from Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., was created by International Management Group, which manages both golfers.
MARKETERS BALK AT COSTS
The high unit cost is also causing some advertisers in the golf world to see red. They said the event is as pricey as ad time on major golf championships such as the U.S. Open. Golf equipment marketers such as Titleist & FootJoy Worldwide have balked at buying time on the broadcast.
"Exorbitant is an understatement," said Wally Uihlein, president-CEO of Acushnet Co., which markets Titleist and Cobra Golf products. "We're still a little flabbergasted with the magnitude of the rate card." Mr. Uihlein's proposal from ABC guaranteed a 6.3 rating, with spots priced at $133,000.
Apparel marketer Tommy Hilfiger, which sponsors Mr. Duval, also said it won't advertise, citing the cost. Nike, too, said it is taking a pass.
But ABC is hoping to draw a broader field of advertisers interested in the prospect of reaching an upscale audience that doesn't typically watch televised golf.