NCAA Bowls: Clemson/LSU Hits Record-High on ESPN; Music City, Liberty Bowls Down

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ESPN set an all-time viewership record for a non-BCS bowl with Monday’s clash between Clemson and Louisiana State.

The Clemson/LSU Peach Bowl drew 8.6 million viewers on ESPN Monday night, up 39% from Auburn/Virginia last year (6.2M), and up 14% from Florida State/South Carolina in 2010 (7.5M).

The game ranks as the most-watched non-BCS bowl game ever on ESPN, topping the previous record set by the 2010 Alamo Bowl (7.8M).

Along with the January 1 Outback Bowl (7.6M), ESPN has now earned two of the network’s four largest non-BCS bowl audiences of all-time during the 2012-13 season.

Earlier Monday, the Tulsa/Iowa State Liberty Bowl drew 2.7 million viewers — down 9% from Cincinnati/Vanderbilt on broadcast network ABC last year (3.0M), down 43% from Central Florida/Georgia on ESPN in 2010 (4.8M), and the smallest audience for the game since at least 2007 (viewership prior to 2008 was not available).

As recently as three years ago, the Liberty Bowl attracted 6.4 million viewers.

Leading off the ESPN tripleheader, the Music City Bowl was the biggest dud of the day. The game between North Carolina State and Vanderbilt drew 2.0 million viewers, down 54% from Mississippi State/Wake Forest last year (4.2M), down 73% from North Carolina/Tennessee in 2010 (7.1M), and the smallest audience for the game since at least 2007.

Contributing to the precipitous decline in viewership was a weaker start time. Last year’s Music City Bowl began at 6:30 PM ET, while this season’s game started at Noon ET.

(Monday’s numbers from TV By the Numbers)

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