While Auburn captured the National Championship with a 22-19 victory over Oregon, ESPN captured a national record. Their telecast of the BCS Championship game is the most-watched telecast in cable history.
Over 27.3 million viewers tuned in to ESPN Monday night, according to Nielsen fast-nationals, making it the single largest audience for any program in cable television history. While it was a cable-tv record it was also an 11% drop from last year's contest, which was telecast on ABC. Almost 31 milliion viewers watched Alabama's win over Texas. Still, the game dominated the night's viewing and capped off the most successful ratings stretch in ESPN history.
Despite being televised on cable for the first time, Auburn's win over Oregon is the fifth most-viewed BCS National Championship Game ever.
Thanks in large part to the Rose and Fiesta Bowls on January 1st, ESPN had its best day ever in total viewership. The cable network averaged a 4.3 rating (6,301,000 viewers) throughout the day. For the Nielsen week of December 27, 2010 – January 2, 2011, ESPN averaged a 2.2 rating, representing 2,953,000 viewers and 2,148,000 homes.
ESPN currently charges cable and satellite providers over $4.40 per month per subscriber -and that's about $3.00 more than any other cable channel. The WWL continues to expand its brand throughout cable and broadband, and it now has the ten largest audiences in cable television history, with seven coming in the past twelve months.
Obviously the ratings for all the BCS games were down compared to when they were telecast over-the-air. But for ESPN that is beside the point. All of the games garnered large cable audiences, which enhances ESPN's overall portfolio.
This year's Rose Bowl attracted 20.5 million viewers, making it the fourth most-watched program in cable history.
The five BCS games averaged over 16.7 million viewers each, higher than the prime-time average for any network this season, broadcast or cable. The games also performed at a top level on ESPN's digital platforms, driving those numbers to record highs.
The BCS Championship game was carried live on broadband on ESPN3, and it attracted more than 619,000 unique viewers. 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.
As strong as a performer as the BCS games were for ESPN, it is the Monday Night Football franchise that continues to outperform everything else. MNF holds down the other 8 spots on the all-time most-watched cable list.
When Monday Night Football moved over to cable, ESPN established a new template for doing business with sports entities.
It isn't just about ratings. It's about dual revenue streams. It's about cross-promotion over several video and digital platforms. It's about expanding the "brand."
ESPN outbid Fox by more than $100 million for the rights to the BCS series. After only one year it is obvious that it was worth every penny -- and more.