Sport continues to be the marquee content piece in the American broadcast puzzle. Latest evidence: 10 January's BCS Championship game posted a 16.1 overnight metered market Nielsen rating for the ESPN network. That makes it the highest rating in the history of cable television.
Bowl officials also expect the broadcast to break the previous record for overall television ratings (cable and otherwise).
Factors to its success? For one, bowl games were much more in the limelight this season than previous years, thanks to the inclusion in the bowl race of the team from Fort Worth, Tex.' small, private college, the TCU Horned Frogs. Despite nationwide spectulation that the dark-horse Frogs wouldn't have what it takes to win against the much bigger and better-funded teams in the nationwide conferences, the team dispatched with Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl to snag the No. 2 overall spot in the rankings. That historic moment meant the BCS Championship would determine the No. 1 and No. 3 schools in the rankings instead of No. 1 and 2, ratcheting up the drama in a big way for college football fans and bookies in Vegas alike.
The Championship proved also to have a strong hometown draw. The Auburn vs. Oregon showdown had a 67 rating in Birmingham, Ala. and a 37.5 rating in Portland, Ore. Nashville, New Orleans and Knoxville, Tenn. Rounding out the top five markets for the event. Thus, ESPN was able to "win the night" among all networks, broadcast or cable, Fiesta Bowl officials said in a news release.
ESPN also broadcast the previous cable ratings champ, a Monday Night Football game between New England and New Orleans on 30 Nov. 2009.