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Bowl Ratings Down; 7 Of Top 10 Most-Watched Bowls Feature SEC Squads

By the middle of January each year we begin to hear the same two statements tossed around by defenders of the current college bowl system:

* Attendance at the bowls is up

and…

* TV ratings for the bowls are up

Well, not this year. 

Attendance will be touted as being up — mainly because tickets are sold through contractual obligations with the schools — but the actual in-stadium attendance appeared to be quite low at many, many bowl games.  Sure the BBVA Compass Bowl Kentucky and Pitt had to buy about 10,000 seats to the game, but Legion Field was littered with empty seats.  Just because a school has to buy tickets, it doesn’t mean that fans are buying the tickets from those schools.

Perhaps some of these games should take the old awards show approach of using either cut-outs or stand-ins to fill empty seats.

Meanwhile, television ratings were down a full 9% in 2010 and that includes an 11% drop for the BCS Championship Game.  Part of that can be explained away by the fact that last year’s title game featured two of the biggest names in football (Alabama versus Texas) while this year’s game featured two schools (Auburn versus Oregon) with smaller national followings.  One game had the luster to draw in casual fans while the other — apparently — did not. 

According to The Birmingham News, 23 of 33 bowl games drew fewer viewers than they did a year ago.  And 13 of those games dropped by 20% or more.  (The TicketCity Bowl appeared on ESPNU and was not included in Neilsen’s ratings breakdown.)

But as much as I hate to say it, another reason for the decline in TV numbers was the switch of all five BCS games from Fox (over the air network) to ESPN (cable). 

Here are the 10 most-watched bowls for 2010-11 and all of the SEC’s games… so you can see what kind of exposure your favorite program received:


Viewership Rank
Bowl
Teams
Rating
Increase/Decrease
1
BCS Champsionship Game
Auburn/Oregon
15.29
Down 11%
2
Rose
TCU/Wisconsin
11.26
Down 15%
3
Sugar
Arkansas/Ohio State
8.20
Down 4%
4
Outback
Florida/Penn State
7.05
Up 101%
5
Orange
Stanford/Virginia Tech
6.75
Down 1%
6
Fiesta
Oklahoma/UConn
6.15
Down 25%
7
Cotton
LSU/Texas A&M
5.81
Up 29%
8
Chick-fil-A
Florida State/South Carolina
4.32
Down 2%
9
Music City
North Carolina/Tennessee
4.24
Up 152%
10
Capital One
Alabama/Michigan State
3.69
Down 46%
14
Liberty
Georgia/UCF
2.96
Down 21%
20
BBVA Compass
Kentucky/Pittsburgh
2.20
Up 38%
28
Gator
Michigan/Mississippi State
1.71
Down 57%


Each national ratings point equals roughly 1.1 million viewers.


With corporate sponsors and ESPN now driving the bowl games, televison draw for schools will become increasingly important.  The sponsors want eyeballs on their in-game commercials and logos.  Unfortunately, that’s not good news for Mississippi State and Kentucky whose bowls ranked quite poorly overall.  Georgia’s ratings weren’t great this year, either, but most TV/bowl reps would lay the blame for that at UCF’s feet.  Georgia is still a national name with a national television draw.

 


11 comments
Guest
Guest

What did Tennessee? The same thing that Arkansas... Bowl losses!!!

jv1959
jv1959

Perhaps, of course no one knows, it would have been better to spread them out and then you would not have to cannabalize each other's viewers. If they had been spreadout, it would have only taken a liitle under 1 rating point from each of the other two games to view the third to have an increase in the total viewership of these three games. Stupid me, I thought advertisers and networks wanted increased viewership! The SEC would have received the payout anyway, so I would argue that the "Roadblocking" was a terrible blunder for the advertisers and for the fans. Second BTW, not only have I become addicted to mrsec, but my wife and three children. It is truly the best out there. Having said that, argue with me!!!

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

jv1959...

Actually, the SEC was involved in that decision, too. The practice in television terms is called "roadblocking." Just a company might put an add on three different stations at the same time -- to make sure many people see it -- the SEC's three-games-at-once maneuver guarantees that on New Year's Day, no one can miss the SEC. From a recruiting standpoint, high schoolers see the Big Ten and SEC represented all over the place -- literally you can't miss them if you're watching football on that afternoon -- and that tells them that the best leagues in the world are... the SEC and Big Ten, naturally.

It's not great for fans, but the SEC would look on the bright side of this and gladly collect the hefty paychecks handed out by the bowls (thanks to ESPN).

Thanks for reading,
John

jv1959
jv1959

Good info, but to us die-hard SEC fans, it &#%$^. BTW, I have started analyzing the numbers. So far I have this. If you take the rating numbers and the corresponding increase or decrease percentages, you come up with this. Last year's Outback was at 3.51 and increased by 3.54. Last year's Capitol One was at 6.83 and decreased by 3.14. Last year's Gator Bowl was at 3.98 and decreased by 2.27. So overall, using the 1.1 M viewers per point, these three bowls decreased from 15.8 M viewers to 13.7 M viewers. So even if you take the total number of viewers of the three games, it was down.

jv1959
jv1959

How can someone watch all three games (FL, AL, MSU) at one time....they can't. If they had been spaced out, I guarantee you that all three would have had increased viewing. I would have (and I am sure most SEC fans would have) watched all three games. This blunder lies squarely at the feet of the ESPN scheduling folks. Many of us were talking about how stupid it was as soon as the schedule came out. MrSEC, is there a chance you can ask a few questions ESPN as to the reasoning behind this?

jv1959
jv1959

Forgot to mention the obvious, I am sure the Big Ten fans would have liked to have watched all three games in their entirity also.

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Justin...

Agreed. But the fact that the MSU game ranked so low (28th out of the 33 Neilsen measured) shows that that game's numbers were low to begin with.

This is not a knock on MSU, just a statement of fact. Dan Mullen will have to build MSU's national name. That shouldn't surprise anyone.

John

johnmrsec
johnmrsec

Corey Lock...

But of the three SEC games on at one time, MSU drew by far the smallest audience. Not a knock on MSU, but having worked in television for 20 years, I can tell you how people look at ratings. And the fact that Michigan is a major draw... but only got a very small audience... will be hung around MSU's neck. Just another thing Dan Mullen will have to overcome as he builds his program: national name recognition.

nat...

We mentioned the switch from Fox to ESPN in our piece.

John

Justin
Justin

State is a smaller draw than Bama or Florida, no arguing that, but it doesn't take a genius to realize people are going to watch the game that was close the whole way through over the 2 that were blowouts in the first half.

nat
nat

and not to mention last year BCS was on Fox, ABC.... national channel, but this year ESPN isn't.

Corey Lock
Corey Lock

I wouldn't fault Mississippi State for not drawing a big TV rating as much as I would ESPN for scheduling 3 Big Ten vs SEC games at the same time. Also, why don't the play the NFL games on Saturday during the afternoon and cap the night offf with the BCS Championship game. That would draw a much larger audience than a Monday night game when everyone is getting back to the grind of life after the holidays. Why is the Birmingham VD bowl the only college game on that day?

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