It’s been said that every rose has its thorn, so things could get a little prickly for ESPN, its naysayers and Nielsen eyeball counters next January.
Executives at the Bristol behemoth may be smelling the roses now given ABC’s final tally from the BCS national championship game. Alabama’s 37-21 win over Texas in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7 yielded an average of 30.8 million viewers, a 15% rise from the 26.8 million who watched Florida beat Oklahoma in last year’s title tilt on Fox.
Indeed, Alabama-Texas was the most-watched college championship game since ABC’s coverage of the Jan. 4, 2006 Rose Bowl, famously won by Texas, now Tennessee Titans, signal-caller Vince Young, over USC, which was viewed by some 35.6 million.
Will Nick Saban, the unquestioned favorite of Miami Dolphins and LSU Tigers loyalists everywhere, and Heisman winner Mark Ingram, get the Tide to roll to another title on Jan. 10, 2011 in Glendale, Ariz.? Maybe.
But the title game, all of the other BCS contests and the Rose Bowl are shifting to ESPN for the next few years. That no doubt will provide fresh fodder for some Congressmen to grandstand that a number of their constituents won’t be able to see — as has been their inalienable Constitutional right– the collegians knock helmets because the action is no longer available on broadcast TV.
And given the 15 million home built-in deficit ESPN faces against its broadcast brethren’s universe, the worldwide leader will be hard-pressed to match the 30.8 million who tuned in the title game, no matter which contenders meet in the desert next January.
Still, this is no BS: the BCS championship could emerge as ESPN’s and cable’s top telecast ever. Right now, the mark to beat: the 21.8 million who saw Brett Favre and his Minnesota Vikings host and beat up on his old squad, the Green Bay Packers, last Oct. 5.