While the early reports of last night's BCS Championship Game ratings were delivered with a certain kind of spin -- that is, the lowest they've been in some time -- the folks at ESPN's press center are offering lessons on how to spin these numbers to make a positive, and they're doing so with the help of the increase of their online audience.
As indicated, when the TV numbers hit the wires, the reaction was largely negative, with the main thought being a bad game deserves lower ratings. That is, however, until ESPN got a chance to spin the numbers to their favor. It should be noted, however, that pointing out facts about the BCS Championship viewer ratings isn't necessarily spin, either.
The title of their related press release demonstrates ESPN's commitment to a positive light -- BCS National Championship: Cable’s Second Biggest Audience of All Time -- as does the content:
ESPN’s telecast of the Allstate Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship – Alabama’s 21-0 shutout of LSU -- posted a 16.2 fast national household coverage rating, according to Nielsen, representing an average of 16,072,000 households, the second highest of any program in the history in cable television (records go back to 1987). The average of 24,214,000 viewers (P2+) was also second best in cable. It also is ESPN’s second-highest rating of all time.
The only telecast in cable television history with a larger audience was last year’s BCS Championship on ESPN (17,718,000 homes and 27,316,000 people, based on a 17.8 rating), a 22-19 Auburn victory over Oregon decided by a field goal as time expired.
To all the naysayers, downplaying the TV ratings, take that. While the viewer reception of the broadcast can be spun to represent both positive and negative reactions, one place where spin isn't necessary is when dealing with ESPN's online audience, otherwise known as the folks who watched the game on their PC, laptop, or other mobile device. As is the case with CBS' March Madness On Demand, ESPN experienced a ratings increase for their online broadcast of the BCS Championship Game:
Across all WatchESPN platforms – computer, smartphone, tablet, Xbox – the average minute audience for the BCS National Championship game totaled 261,000 people, up 40 percent over last year’s game, and a record for college football on ESPN’s digital platforms. More than 523,000 people watched the game on WatchESPN.com, generating 39.6 million minutes and an average minute audience of 227,000 people, which is up 20 percent compared to last year [Emphasis added]
Not only did ESPN experience a noticeable ratings increase for their BCS Championship online broadcast, their audience for the entire BCS Bowl Game slate showed substantial increase as well, showing a 27 percent increase when compared to last year.
It's pretty clear there is a sustainable business model for online broadcasts of live sporting events, but yet, the traditional entertainment industry stalwarts, especially those that depend on an viewing audience for success, are still hesitant to embrace online distribution of new content.
Apparently, the only time CBS thinks the idea is worthy is during the NCAA Men's basketball tournament. Otherwise, you're stuck with reruns of episodes that have aired at least a day before they are made available online.