SBD/Issue 81/Sports Media

Tiger Bait: First Primetime Cotton Bowl Helps Fox Win Night

Fox Earns Its Best-Ever Rating
For Cotton Bowl With LSU-Texas A&M

Fox earned a 5.8 fast-national Nielsen rating and 10.0 million viewers for LSU's 41-24 win over Texas A&M Friday in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, marking the net’s best Cotton Bowl rating ever. The game marked the first Cotton Bowl to air in primetime and gave Fox its best Friday night since New Year's Day last year and win for the night among all nets. The game was up 29% from a 4.5 rating for Ole Miss-Oklahoma State last year, which was played the afternoon of Jan. 2 (THE DAILY). In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton noted the game was the "first AT&T Cotton Bowl ever under the lights," and it was a "prime-time classic." LeBreton: "Somewhere along the way, local football watchers will attest, the Cotton Bowl had lost its groove." But with the game now being played at Cowboys Stadium, "hopefully those days are forever gone" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/8). FS SOUTHWEST's Mike Piellucci noted the rating "should help quell some of the criticism that erupted after the game moved from its traditional New Year's Day slot into later in the bowl schedule." The rating also should "help Cotton Bowl officials in their outspoken request to lure a BCS bowl bid once the current bowl agreements expire in 2014." Without the "aid of a high profile BCS matchup, the Cotton Bowl came within striking distance" of ratings for the Fiesta and Orange bowls (FOXSPORTSSOUTHWEST.com, 1/9).

RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR: ESPN's coverage of bowl games saw the net post its highest-rated and most-viewed day in its history on New Year's Day, and its highest-rated and most-watched week in its history for the week ending Jan. 2. ESPN on New Year's Day averaged 6.301 million viewers, besting the previous record of 4.456 million viewers set on Sept. 14, 2009, when the net aired an NFL opening-week "MNF" doubleheader. Meanwhile, for the week ending Jan. 2, ESPN averaged 2.953 million viewers, topping the 2.274 million viewers for the week ending Jan. 3, 2010. In addition to the New Year's Day bowl games, the net during the week telecast the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, the Capital One Bowl, the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl and Saints-Falcons "MNF," the most-viewed "MNF" game of the season. ESPN.com on New Year's Day also earned 12.5 million visits, 35 million page views and 59.2 million minutes for college football content, up 17%, 24% and 31%, respectively, from a year ago. BCS games represented three of ESPN3.com's four most popular college football games. Meanwhile, ESPN Mobile on New Year's Day saw 8.8 million visits, 18.5 million page views and 35.3 million total minutes, up 49%, 41%, and 42%, respectively (ESPN).

A SWING AND A MISS, AGAIN: In Detroit, Jerry Green noted Stanford Univ. coach Jim Harbaugh Friday agreed to coach the 49ers, but ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit in November referred to Harbaugh and the Univ. of Michigan's coaching job, saying, "I think Jim Harbaugh is gone. I think he would take a Greyhound bus to Ann Arbor." Green wrote Herbstreit "forfeited his journalistic credibility three years ago" when he erroneously reported LSU coach Les Miles would leave to take the Michigan job. Green: "It's time for ESPN ... to put the gag on Herbstreit. It's time he buttoned his lip. ... For some unfathomable reason newspapers and other media outlets grab at statements delivered by Herbstreit as the bloody truth." Herbstreit "has been guilty of an imposing list of strikeouts." Green: "Time for ESPN to put the gag on Herbstreit's piffle. And for a onetime Ohio State quarterback to be spouting off about Michigan -- and most of it inaccurate ... well, ESPN is endorsing a conflict of interest" (DETROIT NEWS, 1/8).

RIVALED COVERAGE: In Birmingham, Kevin Scarbinsky noted Univ. of Alabama football coach Nick Saban is serving as an "analyst on ESPN's family of networks, including ESPN 3D," in advance of tonight's Auburn-Oregon Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer Ed Placey said he has not "personally heard any" reactions from Auburn fans to Saban's role. But he added, "I'm aware of them. We knew it was coming. Someone with Nick Saban's credentials and certainly coming off a national championship and a person who, as most of Alabama knows and most of the country knows, is a straight shooter and someone that's going to be candid and passionate and tell it like it is, those are the people that we want a part of our broadcast" (AL.com, 1/9).

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