They Shoot, They Score: ESPN Earns Big Numbers For CBB's Champions Classic
ESPN earned its second most-viewed non-conference men's college basketball game Tuesday for the opening game of the State Farm Champions Classic, which saw No. 2 Michigan State defeat No. 1 Kentucky. The game averaged 4,002,000 viewers and a 2.6 U.S. rating. ESPN's most-viewed game was also a matchup of the top two teams with No. 2 Tennessee defeating No. 1 Memphis in February '08. The second game of Tuesday's doubleheader, Kansas-Duke, also garnered a large audience, averaging 2,977,000 viewers and a 2.1 rating. The two Tuesday games averaged a combined 3,509,000 viewers and a 2.4 rating, making it the most-viewed and highest-rated Champions Classic in the three-year history of the event. ESPN recently announced it will continue to televise the Champions Classic with the four participating teams for three more years (ESPN). VARIETY's Rick Kissell noted in adults 18-49, the first game "did a 1.4 rating, and the nightcap a 1.3." The only cable program "to rate higher in men 18-49" was FX' "Sons of Anarchy" (VARIETY.com, 11/13).
GREAT BOOST FOR THE SPORT: ESPN.com's Michael Wilbon wrote Tuesday night's doubleheader was "important to college hoops" because the sport "just doesn't matter nationally the way it used to in November. Or December. Or January." The NFL has "become carnivorous," as it "devours all forms of sports/entertainment that dare get it its way." The college basketball season has "pretty much been reduced into a six-week season, from the middle of February until the first week of April," putting it in "danger of becoming a niche sport." The Champions Classic was "college basketball in early November, and not in Alaska or Hawaii, but on the mainland, in middle America, four of the five best teams in the country schools that matter greatly to the history of college basketball." Fans who watched the games because of marquee freshmen Kansas F Andrew Wiggins, Duke F Jabari Parker and Kentucky F Julius Randle will "inevitably discover other players and teams to fall in love with -- which means the doubleheader will have lured a great many people into college basketball's tent long before February or March." Wilbon: "Perhaps what's needed is a foursome just like this the first week of January, one put together by the matchmakers and ESPN or whoever wants to televise the proceedings" (ESPN.com, 11/13). ESPN's Israel Gutierrez said the "entertainment value" of these games "is what's important for college basketball." He added, "It's just like the stars are important for the NBA .Well, that's what makes this important because it's as big a time as there is until March" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 11/12).