The average TV rating for the 34 bowl games this past season was up 8%, according to an analysis of data by Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News.
The data, provided by Nielsen Media Research, shows that the five Bowl Championship Series games enjoyed a 5% boost, including a 9% increase for the BCS title game, which drew a 17.2 rating for Alabama's 37-21 victory over Texas.
Nineteen bowls outperformed last year's ratings, nine saw their numbers drop, and six remained the same. The Texas Bowl, which had the lowest rating in 2008 (0.1), saw its rating soar 2,000%. The reason is that the game was televised this past season by ESPN instead of the NFL Network, which broadcast the first three Texas Bowls.
Note that the chart reflects an increase of only 200%. This was done to keep the chart in a readable format.
Solomon reports that ESPN's 24 bowls averaged a 2.6 rating, a 6% increase from last year when it aired 23 games, and up 13% from two years ago when ESPN televised 21 games.
The postseason is a cash cow for ESPN, which owns and operates six games: St. Petersburg, New Mexico, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Papajohns.com and Armed Forces.
Games involving Big Ten teams once again averaged the highest rating. These figures were calculated by adding the ratings for games involving teams from each league and then dividing by the number of teams in postseason play. Solomon has been tracking this data for three years, and the Big Ten has finished atop each year.
Click a chart for an enlarged view.
As reference, here are the bowl matchups and broadcasting partner.
BCS Title: Texas-Alabama (ABC)
Rose: Ohio State-Oregon (ABC)
Sugar: Florida-Cincinnati (Fox)
Fiesta: Texas Christian-Boise State (Fox)
Capital One: Penn State-Louisiana State (ABC)
Orange: Georgia Tech-Iowa (Fox)
Alamo: Michigan State-Texas Tech (ESPN)
Emerald: USC-Boston College (ESPN)
Cotton: Oklahoma-Mississippi (Fox)
Chick-fil-A: Virginia Tech-Tennessee (ESPN)
Gator: Florida State-West Virginia (CBS)
Champs Sports: Wisconsin-Miami (ESPN)
Meineke: Pittsburgh-North Carolina (ESPN)
Liberty: Arkansas-East Carolina (ESPN)
Holiday: Arizona-Nebraska (ESPN)
Outback: Auburn-Northwestern (ESPN)
Sun: Oklahoma-Stanford (CBS)
Little Caesars: Marshall-Ohio (ESPN)
Poinsettia: Utah-California (ESPN)
New Mexico: Fresno State-Wyoming (ESPN)
GMAC: Central Michigan-Troy (ESPN)
Las Vegas: Brigham Young-Oregon State (ESPN)
Texas: Navy-Missouri (ESPN)
Humanitarian: Bowling Green-Navy (ESPN)
Independence: Texas A&M-Georgia (ESPN2)
EagleBank: UCLA-Temple (ESPN)
Hawaii: Nevada-Southern Methodist (ESPN)
Music City: Kentucky-Clemson (ESPN)
St. Petersburg: Central Florida-Rutgers (ESPN)
Papajohns.com: South Carolina-Connecticut (ESPN)
Armed Forces: Houston-Air Force (ESPN)
International: South Florida-Northern Illinois (ESPN2)
New Orleans: Middle Tennessee-Southern Mississippi (ESPN)
Insight: Iowa State-Minnesota (NFL Network)