BCS: National Championship Game Scores Largest Cable Audience, Down From ’10

Posted by | January 12, 2011 at 1:06 AM

Arguably the biggest sporting event to ever air on cable television earned the largest audience in cable history.

The Auburn/Oregon BCS National Championship Game earned a 15.3 U.S. rating and 27.316 million viewers on ESPN Monday night, according to Nielsen fast-nationals, the single largest audience for any program in cable television history.

The previous high was 21.839 million viewers for a Packers/Vikings NFL game on ESPN in 2009.

Despite the record, Auburn/Oregon was down 11% in ratings and viewership compared to last year’s BCS title game (ALA/TEX: 17.2, 30.776 mil, ABC).

Compared to the 2009 edition, however, the game was down just 3% in ratings, and actually up 2% in viewership (UF/OK: 15.8, 26.767 mil, FOX).

Overall, Monday’s game ranks as the fifth most-viewed BCS National Championship Game ever (13 telecasts), an impressive feat considering this year’s game was the first to air on cable television.

Compared to other sports, the BCS title game ranks as the highest rated, most-viewed non-NFL sporting event on any network since Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals (BOS/LAL: 15.6, 28.203 mil).

The game topped the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Game on CBS (DUKE/BUTLER: 14.2, 23.994 mil), the 2010 World Cup final on ABC and Univision (ESP/NED: 24.3 mil), and every game of the 2010 World Series on FOX, among others.

Going back further, Auburn/Oregon outdrew every college basketball game since 1997 (ARI/UK: 28.364 mil), every Major League Baseball game since 2004 (BOS/STL G4: 28.844 mil), all but one NBA game (the aforementioned Celtics/Lakers Game 7) since 1998, and every single World Cup telecast in U.S. history.

All that said, the game still trailed all four NFL Wild Card games on NBC, FOX and CBS over the weekend.

Returning to the game’s record cable audience, the 2011 Bowl Championship Series now accounts for two of the four largest audiences in cable history — Monday’s game, and the January 1 Rose Bowl (TCU/WISC: 20.558 mil).

ESPN now owns the ten largest audiences in cable television history, with seven coming in the past twelve months alone. Auburn/Oregon marks the fourth time in the past five years ESPN has set a record for the most-viewed cable program ever.

Most-Viewed Programs in Cable History













#
Date
Sport Game/Event Net Rating
Viewers
1
Mon., 1/10/11 NCAA FB BCS National Championship Game: Auburn/Oregon ESPN
15.3
27,316
2
Mon., 10/5/09 NFL Regular Season: Packers/Vikings ESPN
13.2
21,839
3
Mon., 11/30/10 NFL Regular Season: Patriots/Saints ESPN
12.9
21,402
4
Sat., 1/1/11 NCAA FB Rose Bowl: TCU/Wisconsin ESPN
11.3
20,558
5
Mon., 12/27/10 NFL Regular Season: Saints/Falcons ESPN
11.2
19,137
6
Mon., 9/15/08 NFL Regular Season: Eagles/Cowboys ESPN
11.3
18,608
7
Mon., 10/25/10 NFL Regular Season: Giants/Cowboys ESPN
11.2
17,953
8
Mon., 12/3/07 NFL Regular Season: Patriots/Ravens ESPN
11.1
17,522
9
Mon., 9/27/10 NFL Regular Season: Packers/Bears ESPN
10.8
17,454
10
Mon., 10/11/10 NFL Regular Season: Vikings/Jets ESPN
10.7
17,313

(ESPN)