RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And in media circles it is a truism that at some point, somewhere, golf star Tiger Woods will have to come out of seclusion and sit down for a televised interview. In network parlance, such interviews are gets - and they aren't scheduled, they're booked. NPR's David Folkenflik takes us to the front lines of the television booking wars.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Specialized news producers, called bookers, fly across the country � even across the world � seeking a way to make connections to the people their networks want to land.
Jim Bell is executive producer of NBC's �Today Show.�
Mr. JIM BELL (Executive producer, NBC's �Today Show�): Booking is the game. That is the game.
FOLKENFLIK: It's more than just bragging rights. Exclusive interviews help generate publicity for big money making shows like �Today� and ABC's �Good Morning America� and �The Oprah Winfrey Show,� as well as for their celebrity hosts.
Jessica Stuart used to be a booker for NBC and for Oprah Winfrey, and she says they're all in the hunt.
Ms. JESSICA STUART (Former booker, NBC): They're figuring out who might be some intern's cousin's neighbor who caddies at the golf resort that Tiger Woods played at three years ago.
FOLKENFLIK: Since the earliest days of the Tiger Woods' scandal, ABC News has had a Swedish-speaking producer camped out in Sweden to talk to relatives of his wife, Elin Nordegren. Stuart says she learned her business wasn't for the faint hearted early on - back when she worked for "Today."
Ms. STUART: During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, my competition had gotten the first interview with her attorney, Ginsberg, and I physically threw myself in front of his car, while it was moving, to try to stop it to get an interview. I was 21 and really hungry. No one told me to do it. I just wanted that get.
FOLKENFLIK: In fact, several television news executives I talked to said that the last big get that compares to Tiger Woods was Lewinsky herself, a decade ago, right after the U.S. Senate acquitted President Bill Clinton.
Ms. BARABARA WALTERS (News Anchor): Monica, did you feel that you're in competition with Hillary Clinton?
Ms. MONICA LEWINSKY: Hum, sometimes, sure.
FOLKENFLIK: Barbara Walters of ABC News booked that blockbuster interview back in 1999.
Another big get occurred two years ago when the British Princes William and Harry sat down with Matt Lauer of NBC's "Today Show." Networks say they don't pay for the interviews. Ordinary folks like survivors of a natural disaster might get flown to Manhattan and put up in fancy hotels and kept away from lurking competitors. But that Barbara Walters interview, ABC gave Lewinsky the rights to sell the tapes of the interview abroad netting her hundreds of thousands of dollars. And NBC paid $2.5 million to the princes' foundation, named for their mother, the late Princess Diana - officially, for the rights to broadcast a benefit concert in the United States. Jim Bell is executive producer of "The Today Show."
Mr. JIM BELL (Executive Producer, "The Today Show"): There's no question there are things that have gone on, I guess, with interviews that make people a little queasy. I feel like for the most part, though, we meet our standard. We're going to ask anything. We're going to be able to do - you know, no one comes in here and gets a cakewalk. And I think if the viewers feel comfortable, if we feel comfortable with it � that's fine.
FOLKENFLIK: He says that Woods has strong enough incentive, at some point, to do it without anyone having to strike special deals.
Mr. BELL: To move on, to get his story out - assuming he has one. I mean, I think there's a lot in it for him. He has to get past this, and part of that is answering some questions that people have.
FOLKENFLIK: The Woods' story first broke in "The National Inquirer" just after Thanksgiving and it's been playing out ever since.
Laurye Blackford is a former senior producer for "Good Morning America" and briefly for the CBS "Early Show." She respects "The Today Show" but says she's surprised it broadcast interviews with two women who said they had had extramarital affairs with Woods.
Ms. LAURYE BLACKFORD (Former Senior Producer, "Good Morning America"): Wanting that big interview, you really have to weigh is it worth doing - talking to these women and possibly losing Tiger because of that?
FOLKENFLIK: "Today's" Jim Bell says that consideration never came up. He points to "Today's" top-rated status for 14 straight years in the morning show wars.
Mr. BELL: When you can simply say to people, more people are going to watch you on our show, that's a very powerful card that wins a lot. And in many cases, people will come to us, you know, and sometimes before we've even have reached out to them.
FOLKENFLIK: The confessional interview has become an almost unavoidable ritual for disgraced figures to emerge once again in public. Former TV booker Jessica Stuart.
Ms. STUART: Who is their audience? Who do they want to mea culpa to? You know, do they want to mea culpa to women? Then they go to Oprah. Tiger Woods, I mean, who does he want to apologize to?
FOLKENFLIK: If it's the hard core sports fan, expect to see Woods on ABC and its sister station ESPN. A lot can be told by who books the get.
David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.
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