SBD/January 12, 2011/Media

BCS Title Most-Viewed Cable Program, But Down From '10 Game

ESPN averaged a 15.3 U.S. rating and 27.3 million viewers for Monday night's Auburn-Oregon Tostitos BCS National Championship from 8:33pm-12:17am ET, making it the highest-rated and most-viewed program in the history of cable television. Among BCS Championship games over the last decade, only the Texas-USC Rose Bowl from '06 earned a better rating among males 18-34 than Monday night's telecast. The previous cable viewership record was ESPN's Vikings-Packers "MNF" game on Oct. 5, 2009, which had an audience of 21.8 million viewers. Compared to last year's Alabama-Texas title game on ABC, Auburn-Oregon is down 11.0% and 11.2%, respectively, from a 17.2 rating and 30.8 million viewers. The viewership for Auburn-Oregon is higher than eight of the previous 12 BCS title broadcasts, all on network TV. For the five BCS game telecasts this season, ESPN averaged a 9.6 U.S. rating and 16.7 million viewers, down 11.9% and 13.2%, respectively, from last year, when the games aired on ABC and Fox. ESPN's BCS package was also down year-over-year among males 18-34 (-4%), 18-49 (-6%) and 25-54 (-11%), as well as among adults 18-49 (-10%) (THE DAILY).

AVERAGE RATING, VIEWERSHIP FOR FIVE BCS GAMES
YEAR
NET(S)
RATING
VIEWERS (000)
'11
ESPN
9.6
16,729
'10
Fox/ABC
10.9
19,278
'09
Fox/ABC
10.3
17,595
'08
Fox/ABC
9.4
15,554
'07
Fox/ABC
11.1
18,123
BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RATINGS, VIEWERSHIP
YEAR
DAY
GAME
NET
RATING
VIEWERS
(000)
'11
Mon.
Auburn-Oregon
ESPN
15.3
27,316
'10
Thurs.
Alabama-Texas
ABC
17.2
30,776
'09
Thurs.
Florida-Oklahoma
Fox
15.8
26,767
'08
Mon.
LSU-Ohio State
Fox
14.4
23,069
'07
Mon.
Florida-Ohio State
Fox
17.4
28,795
'06
Wed.
Texas-USC (Rose Bowl)
ABC
21.7
35,630
'05
Tues.
USC-Oklahoma (Orange Bowl)
ABC
13.7
21,419
'04
Sun.
LSU-Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl)
ABC
14.8
23,937
'03
Fri.
Ohio State-Miami (Fiesta Bowl)
ABC
17.2
29,104
'02
Thurs.
Miami-Nebraska (Rose Bowl)
ABC
13.8
21,559
'01
Wed.
Oklahoma-Florida State (Orange Bowl)
ABC
17.8
27,240
'00
Tues.
Florida State-Virginia Tech (Sugar Bowl)
ABC
17.5
26,962
'99
Mon.
Tennessee-Florida State (Fiesta Bowl)
ABC
17.2
26,112

STRONG NUMBER NO SURPRISE: On Long Island, Neil Best wrote the viewership record was "not a surprise, given the game's move to ESPN, making it the most important U.S. sports championship to date contested outside a broadcast network" (NEWSDAY.com, 1/11). In L.A., Scott Collins wrote the numbers "will bring a sigh of relief to ESPN executive suites," as the net "aired the entire BCS lineup for the first time and earlier saw some lower-than-broadcast ratings for events such as the Rose Bowl" (LATIMES.com, 1/11). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes the game was a "huge success ... by ESPN's standard" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12). FANHOUSE.com's Milton Kent: "There were those who questioned the wisdom of Disney obtaining, then moving, all of the Bowl Championship Series games off broadcast television and onto cable. Let the questioning cease" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/11). CABLEFAX DAILY writes ESPN's coverage of the BCS title game "turned out to be more eye-catching than losing side Oregon's neon socks." ESPN Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Sean Bratches: "We really feel like we're in the cross-hairs of greatness" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 1/12).

STILL A DROPOFF FROM NETWORK: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes under the header, "ESPN's Bowl Ratings Are No Bonanza." ESPN "notes Auburn-Oregon drew cable TV's biggest-ever audience -- which it will remind cable operators the next time it jacks up those operators' subscription fees -- but the BCS has also cut off about 16 million U.S. TV households that don't get cable TV." The net's ratings for the BCS "faced other drags." Oregon and Auburn "come from states with relatively small populations," and "big names such as Florida, Penn State, Texas and Alabama were absent" from the BCS (USA TODAY, 1/12).

VEERING OFF COURSE: The N.Y. TIMES' Sandomir writes ESPN's Brent Musburger, who called Auburn-Oregon, "has veered from the factual precision needed to maintain his status as ESPN's No. 1 college football announcer." Musburger, who also worked the Rose Bowl, called the games "with characteristic brio as well as a strange propensity for not routinely stating where the ball was spotted or giving the yardage gained on a play." Sandomir: "Based on my notes on both bowls, Musburger gave that information 25 percent of the time when it should probably have been more than 50 percent. ... Musburger relied on dodges that helped him avoid making errors but also perpetuated a lack of precision you would never encounter with, say, Al Michaels." Musburger's voice is "still the best in the ESPN stable," but the "details add up to inattention to his job or an odd attempt to be the master of a new paradigm of announcing where emotion trumps fact." Meanwhile, Musburger's performance during Auburn-Oregon "will be remembered most for his silly recasting of himself as a marketing man" for his "This is for all the Tostitos" line (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes the Tostitos line "may become Mr. Musburger's most famous Musburger-ism," and fans "shouldn't be the least bit surprised." Musburger is "loopy (see his recent steroid rant?)," and "a pleaser." But while "plenty of college fans dislike his style, he fundamentally gets it." His now-infamous phrase is "just the crazy bus driven to its next logical stop" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/12).

CONFLICT OF INTEREST? In Salt Lake City, Scott Pierce writes under the header, "Can We Trust ESPN To Report On The BCS?" Pierce: "Polls show a large majority of college football fans want a playoff system, but can fans expect ESPN to be anything other than a cheerleader for the biggest roadblock to a playoff when it's in bed ... with BCS?" ESPN "College GameDay" host Chris Fowler said, "We've not been told by people in management or programming to shape our opinions based on the company's financial agenda." ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit: "We're not all, 'The system is wonderful. Hail to the BCS!' It's not like that at all" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 1/12).

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