Are there simply too many bowl games?
One could come to that conclusion because bowl TV ratings were down 9%, according to an analysis of Nielsen Media Research data by the Birmingham News. There were a record 35 games over 24 days and many of the games featured uncompetitive matchups. The average margin of victory was 15.3 points, the highest in a bowl season since 1997.
Twenty-three of the 33 returning bowls drew fewer viewers than a year ago. Among the 23 with a decline, 13 plummeted by 20% or more. The data is for 34 games. Nielsen did not have rating numbers for the TicketCity Bowl because the game was on ESPNU.
This was the first year of ESPN's four-year deal to broadcast all the Bowl Championship Series games and the move to cable impacted ratings. The five BCS games were down an average of 12% from last season and tied with 2007 for the BCS' lowest average rating in at least the past nine years. The move to cable cut off about 15 million homes that don't have cable or satellite.
There were ratings winners. The Outback Bowl featuring Florida and Penn State drew more than the Orange or Fiesta. The Insight Bowl, which was previously telecast by the NFL Network, moved to ESPN and saw a ratings spike of 460%.
The percentage decrease/increase chart is after the jump.