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Rose Bowl draws 20.6 million as ESPN rolls out BCS premiere

Andydalton2 Saturday's Rose Bowl between TCU and Wisconsin drew ESPN's highest rating ever for a non-NFL game, with 20.6 million total viewers, according to the Nielsen Co.

Brilliant as that figure was, however, the game — a nailbiter that TCU won, 21-19 — was still down 14% compared with last year's Rose Bowl, which aired on ESPN's sister broadcaster ABC.

This year marks an epic shift in the balance between cable and broadcast, because it's the first time that the Bowl Championship Series has aired entirely on cable. ESPN snatched the TV rights with a four-year deal worth a reported $500 million.

The move seems to be translating into notably lower ratings. The Rose Bowl was followed by the Fiesta Bowl, a blowout in which Oklahoma stomped Connecticut, 48-20. The game drew 10.8 million viewers, down 22% from last year's Fiesta game on Fox.

However, the BCS deal is likely still a winner for ESPN. Unlike broadcasters, the network can recoup its costs not just through advertising but also from subscriber fees it collects from cable operators. And the more big events it telecasts, the easier it is to charge those high fees.

— Scott Collins (Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT)

 Photo: Andy Dalton, quarterback of TCU's Horned Frogs, who defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl on Saturday. Credit: Ron Jenkins/MCT.


Comments () | Archives (5)

"Rose Bowl draws 20.6 million as ESPN rolls out BSC premiere"


Why does ESPN not think about having the Rose Bowl on both ESPN and ABC? Then they pickup the entire market share interested. This cable exclusive will come back to haunt them. Look at the numbers for Monday Night Football on ESPN v. ABC.

With so many people out of work and hurting financially, there's no excuse for having a local game like the Rose Bowl on cable/satellite only. That's one of the first things I had to get rid of to keep my expenses down. Just because I'm in financial straits I can't watch the Rose Bowl? Absurd.

I am a big Ohio State fan, but only a moderate fan of college football generally. Would be happy to pay for individual Ohio State games on Internet or elsewhere, but have no interest in buying yearly cable. By amping up its profits (and probably those of the NCAA institutions), college football may be diminishing its fan base. Tonight I will probably watch the first half of the Sugar Bowl at a Sports Bar, but I can't watch the 2d half because I am a single father with a 9-year-old and can't stay out that late. Would have liked to have watched the Rose Bowl, but couldn't.

With the ratings 14% down from last year's broadcast of the Rose Bowl. I think this may end up being like boxing, where the star participants make more money, but the sport's reach among general populace has been greatly reduced by the lack of free mass market coverage. Would add that although cable has a large audience, its audience has begun to decrease with better Internet connections and alternatives such as Netflix.

But since ESPN controls ABC Sports, why isn't the BCS Championship game on ABC? They've shared programming before, why not for this important game? Not everyone has cable.


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