SBD/Issue 73/Sports Media

Rotten Fruit: Orange Bowl Earns Lowest Rating Ever For BCS Game

ABC earned a 12.6 overnight Nielsen rating for USC-Penn State in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, up 5.0% from a 12.0 for USC-Illinois last year. On Fox, the FedEx Orange Bowl in primetime on New Year's Day earned a 6.1/10 overnight, down 22.8% from a 7.9/13 for last year's Allstate Sugar Bowl featuring Georgia-Hawaii, which was Fox' first BCS bowl telecast in '08. On Friday night, Fox earned an 8.5/14 overnight rating for the Allstate Sugar Bowl featuring Utah's upset of Alabama. The 8.5 rating is up 1.2% from a 8.4/13 overnight for the comparable West Virginia-Oklahoma Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last year, which aired on a Wednesday night (THE DAILY). Fox Thursday led all broadcast networks in viewership among adults 18-49 with its coverage of the Virginia Tech-Cincinnati FedEx Orange Bowl. The net tied for second on the night in total viewers with NBC, trailing CBS (N.Y. TIMES, 1/3).

Virginia Tech-Cincinnati Fails To Draw Viewers
As Fox Earns Lowest Rating For BCS Game
LOW-HANGING FRUIT:'s Stewart Mandel noted preliminary ratings for the three BCS games last week "show that viewer interest has never been lower." Fox' 6.1 rating for the Orange Bowl marked the lowest-ever rating for the bowl, down from a 6.98 for the '07 Wake Forest-Louisville game. Fox with the Sugar Bowl did see 11% ratings increase over last year's Georgia-Hawaii game, but Utah-Alabama still ranked "seventh-lowest among the 45 BCS games played to date." And while Thursday's Rose Bowl saw ABC's ratings increase from a 12.0 for last year's USC-Illinois game, the mark ranked as the "third-lowest of the 11 Rose Bowls played during the BCS era." Mandel wrote BCS officials "can't be pleased with these early returns," as seven of the nine lowest-rated games of the BCS era "have now taken place over the past three seasons." Mandel: "I'd go so far as to say that the addition of a fifth BCS bowl can officially be declared an abject failure." ESPN will take over rights to the BCS beginning in January 2011, and Mandel wrote, "My guess is ESPN will reverse the trend, at least somewhat, by using one of its most ubiquitous weapons: hype. ... But there's only so much the networks can do to sell what is essentially a broken product" (, 1/4).

TOURNEY TALK: In Dallas, Barry Horn wrote of the Orange Bowl pulling its low rating, "Congratulations to savvy viewers who won't be pulled in to watching a meaningless college football game between two faceless teams even if the BCS letters are attached. ... How many more folks would have tuned in if it had been a playoff match-up ... on the road to crowning a real national champion?" (, 1/3). In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote, "The people who run college football had succeeded, finally, in killing New Year's Day. Instead of college playoff games commanding our attention, we were left with a bunch of BCS exhibitions that meant absolutely nothing" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/3).

TALENT SHOW: In Seattle, Gary Washburn wrote Fox "has done a quality job with the game telecasts" for the BCS. The net has an "impressive duo of studio experts in Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson and also analyst Charles Davis, whose expertise begs us to wonder why he isn't on a bigger stage" (SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER, 1/2). Meanwhile, in Denver, Dusty Saunders notes ABC play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger during the Rose Bowl "spent much of the second half giving philosophical dissertations while not following what was happening on the field." Musburger "treated the Rose Bowl like it was the setting for his personal TV talk show" (ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, 1/5).

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