The Jan. 4 bout between University of Southern California and University of Texas notched a new record for sports TV programming -- its 35.6 million viewers were the highest to tune into a college football championship since Nielsen began using electronic measurement in 1991. The previously held record was the 2001 Orange Bowl contest between Oklahoma and Florida State.
73% spike over last year
The game’s 12.8 rating and 33 share in adults ages 18-to-49 was a 73% jump over last year’s championship game, the Orange Bowl, between USC and Oklahoma. In total viewers it was up by 14.2 million. (A share is a percentage of TV households that have their sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with TV.)
Media buyers reported this year’s game was well sold and ratings for all the BCS games were higher than the comparable games last year. ABC Sports sells the entire BCS, which includes the Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl, as a package.
USC was the heavy favorite going into the high-scoring game, which featured three Hiesman Trophy candidates -- Texas quarterback Vince Young, USC quarterback Matt Leinert (last year's Hiesman winner) and USC running back Reggie Bush, who won college football's highest individual award in December.
The game was close the whole way. USC took an early lead only to be overtaken in the second quarter by Mr. Young’s hot arm. But USC came roaring out in the second half and scored three uncontested touchdowns. But with 19 seconds left in the game Mr. Young ran in his third touchdown of the night and Texas won on a desperate fourth-down play.
And while the outcome of the BCS doesn’t necessarily influence last-minute Super Bowl sales, which this year is also being handled by ABC Sports, the fact that the game went down to the last minute, keeping viewers tied to the TV through the final buzzer, helps boost the image of the remaining late-in-game Super Bowl spots, which many advertisers are reluctant to buy in case the game’s a blow out. Last year, the Super Bowl advertisers who made a fourth-quarter gamble got lucky as the final score came down to a late-game field goal.