BCS Championship Ratings Down -- Changes May Be Coming

Over 24 million viewers tuned in to watch Alabama bludgeon LSU in the BCS championship game, a number that works for ESPN.

Meanwhile Conference Commissioners are thinking about making some changes to the BCS System.

The final rating for the Championship game was 14.0, which means that 14% percent of all television-equipped households were tuned in to that program at any given moment. That is the second-lowest rating for a BCS Championship game, but the number of viewers (24.2 Million), puts in in the middle of past games.

USC's 55-14 boat race of Oklahoma in 2005 is the least-viewed BCS game ever -- with 21.4 Million viewers. Miami's 37-14 beating of Nebraska in 2002 is next with 21.8 Million. Both the 2004 LSU-Oklahoma and the 2008 LSU-Ohio State games drew less than 24 Million viewers.

Viewership was down 11% from last years game between Auburn and Oregon (27.3 Million), which was the first year of the ESPN contract.

Two years ago, the Alabama-Texas contest drew 30.7 Million viewers to the ABC broadcast. That and the 2006 Texas-USC Championship game (35.6 Million), are the only two BCS contests to break 30 Million in viewership.

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While the numbers are down, ESPN will take them. The game ranks as the second-most viewed program in cable television history, behind only Auburn-Oregon from last year. It now also means that three of the five most-viewed programs in cable history have been Bowl Championship Series telecasts on ESPN.

It is across all viewing platforms that the game turns into a winner for ESPN. The average minute audience for the BCS National Championship game across all platforms – computer, smartphone, tablet, Xbox -- totaled 261,000 people, up 40% over last year’s game.

More than 523,000 people watched the game online at WatchESPN.com, generating 39.6 million minutes and an average minute audience of 227,000 people, which is up 20% compared to last year.

As for the rest of the BCS games, viewership was down overall.

Rose Bowl
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The Oregon-Wisconsin matchup earned a 10.2 U.S. rating and 17.558 Million viewers on ESPN Monday afternoon -- down from last years TCU-WISC (20.6 Million). It is the lowest-rated Rose Bowl contest since 1989, which was also played on January 2nd.

Fiesta Bowl
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In contrast, the Oklahoma State-Stanford game in the Fiesta Bowl had an 8.4 U.S. rating and 13.684 Million viewers on ESPN -- up almost 3 Million viewers from last year's Oklahoma-Connecticut game.

Sugar Bowl
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Michigan's win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl drew 6.1 rating and 9.572 Million viewers on ESPN. That was down almost 4 Million from last year's broadcast of the Arkansas-Ohio State Sugar Bowl. It is the third-lowest rated BCS bowl of all time. Which brings us to the:

Orange Bowl
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West Virginia's blowout win over Clemson drew a meager 4.5 rating and only 7.2 million viewers. That is over a third less than last year's game between Stanford and Virginia Tech, which has 10.8 Million viewers.

It is the lowest rated and least-viewed Bowl Championship Series telecast in history. The previous low for a BCS game was 9.3 Million for the 2009 Virginia Tech-Cincinnati Orange Bowl on FOX.

Obviously college football fans were a little more discriminating in terms of what they would watch this bowl season. Match ups matter, and that was not lost on the the 11 conference commissioners along with the Notre Dame athletics director who met Tuesday in New Orleans to exchange ideas about "tweaking" the BCS.

There is a growing clamor for a plus-one system, which would match the No. 1 team in the BCS standings after the regular season against the No. 4 team in a bowl game, and No. 2 against No. 3 in another, creating two national semifinals. The winners would play in a championship game the following week.

Standing in the way of the plus-one is the Big 10, specifically its commissioner, Jim Delany. He opposes the plus-one because he fears it would lead to expansion in a play-off, something he is steadfastly against.

One item Delany is for and might come into play as soon as 2014 is the elimination of conference automatic bids.

Whatever changes are agreed upon, they will be in place by this summer when negotiations open up for the next BCS TV contract, which will become effective in 2014.

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