Showing once again the power of live sports in an age of DVRs and TiVos, television ratings for last night's championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame have been described as "astonishing," especially because the game was essentially over by halftime.
According to Nielsen, last night's 15.7 overnight rating amounted "to a 14 percent increase over 2012" and, more impressively, "17 different television markets across the United States had their highest rating ever for a Bowl game televised on ESPN (since calculations began in 2000)."
The game delivered strong ratings even though the numbers peaked midway through the second quarter. Of course, ABC panned the crowd for shots of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron's girlfriend, Katherine Webb, in the stands. And the late-game scuffle between McCarron and his roommate and center Barrett Jones brought people back to the game, especially as viewers who had left the game found out about the incident on Twitter.
Last year's title game between Alabama and LSU generated a 13.8 overnight rating.
Advertisers continue to pour in money into live sports programming because they are guaranteed that people will watch the programs live instead of recording them for later or watching them archived online. This makes sports not only a revenue generator but also a more important force in the culture since Americans gather together and watch games like the BCS title game on a live basis and share common television experiences that have been steadily decreasing since the turn of the century.
Forbes thinks the fact that "television is stealing fans from at-the-game experiences should not be the biggest concern to schools, conferences and the NCAA":
In fact, some may view it as a positive trend. College football television rights agreements have included astronomical terms as of late, and a recent deal allows ESPN to broadcast the upcoming college football national championship system (including a playoff) through 2026. That deal was estimated to cost ESPN in the ballpark of $7 billion. Based on last night’s ratings for what was mostly a non-competitive game, those numbers do not sound bad at all.
Photo credit: Katherine Webb twitter account.