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CBS Bans Commercials During Masters

CBS is preparing to air the Masters Golf Tournament commercial-free for the first time in history.

The decision to drop commercials from this year's Masters stems from a bitter dispute over Augusta National Golf Club's all-male membership policy.

Martha Burk, who heads the National Council of Women's Organizations, had planned to challenge Augusta National's all-male membership policy by asking the three traditional tournament sponsors -- IBM, Citigroup and Coca-Cola -- to pull their ads.

To avoid putting advertisers in the middle of the fight, Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson decided to drop ads completely from the top-drawing attraction in pro golf.

The golf club would forego the tournament rights fee, reportedly $7 million to $10 million, that CBS owed it, he said.

The clash between Augusta and women's groups will make for an unprecedented sports event, though it might not appear that way on the TV screen.

"I don't think you're going to see anything different except golf for 60 minutes," said former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson, who now runs a sports consulting firm.

The ad ban, however, means that CBS can't even use the extra airtime to trumpet its prime-time schedule or promote other network programming -- even though it's normally allowed four commercial breaks an hour under Masters rules.

"Promos and affiliate breaks are not allowed under normal [Masters] rules anyway," Pilson said. "Usually you use commercial breaks to regroup and talk to each other 'offline,' as we say.

"And if [the producers] don't have that opportunity, they will adjust," he said.

Tiger Woods will be gunning for his third consecutive Masters victory when the tournaments kicks off April 10.

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