BCS National Championship: Cable’s Biggest Audience

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BCS National Championship: Cable’s Biggest Audience

ESPN’s Highest Rating Ever; Digital Success

Last night’s Tostitos Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship on ESPN was watched by an average of 27,316,000 viewers (P2+) and 17,718,000 households, more than any program in the history of cable television.  The previous record was an ESPN Monday Night Football contest, Green Bay at Minnesota on October 5, 2009, with an audience of 21,839,000 viewers (P2+) and 15,136,000 homes, based on a 15.3 coverage rating.

The game – a last-second 22-19 Auburn victory over Oregon – earned a 17.8 fast national coverage rating, according to Nielsen, the highest in ESPN history, besting the MNF 15.3 in 2009.  The rating for the U.S. television universe, 15.3, is higher than four of the past 12 BCS title games; the 27+ million viewers is higher than eight of the 12.  Among men 18-34, last night’s game was higher rated than 11 of the 12 games from 1999 – 2010.

The game was also a huge success for ESPN’s digital platforms.  On ESPN3.com, the game was watched by more than 619,000 unique viewers, its most ever for a college football game and fourth all-time behind three 2010 FIFA World Cup contests (source: Adobe).  The previous college football record was last week’s Allstate Sugar Bowl (248,000 viewers), a total that was more than doubled with the Auburn-Oregon matchup.  Usage in visits, page views and total minutes on the day on ESPN.com and the ESPN Mobile Web saw increases ranging from 26 percent to 60 percent across all categories.

“ESPN’s inaugural telecasts of the BCS culminated with a thrilling finish viewed by a record audience,” said George Bodenheimer, ESPN president.  “The BCS was a huge win for fans who through our television, radio and digital platforms enjoyed more coverage, more analysis and more ways to connect with their sport than ever before.”

BCS Highlights

  • Dec 27 – Jan 2:  ESPN’s highest-rated week ever (2.2 coverage rating)
  • Jan. 1: ESPN’s highest-rated day ever (4.3 coverage rating)
  • ESPN’s “reach” (one-minute qualifier) on January 1, 2011, was 63,535,000 viewers, an increase of 49% from New Year’s Day 2010 (42,747,000).
  • ESPN’s five BCS games (Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar) have averaged 16,724,000 viewers – higher than the season-to-date prime-time average for each of the four major broadcast networks.
  • As a series, the five games would rank sixth among viewers out of the 111 prime-time programs on the four major broadcast networks this season (excluding specials).


ESPN’s first year of exclusive coverage of the five BCS matchups comprised ESPN, ESPN Radio and ESPN3.com presenting all five BCS Bowl games with ESPN 3D providing exclusive 3D coverage of the Tositios Fiesta Bowl and Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

ESPN provided extensive on-site studio programming and reports across multiple shows and platforms, dedicated web pages for each bowl, re-airs of classic BCS games, international telecasts of all five games, encore presentations of the National Championship and more.

ESPN’s year-round commitment to college football includes more than 400 games, culminating with 33 bowls, and approximately 200 million people tuned in to college football 2010 regular-season coverage on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC.


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