Bowl blowouts stall ABC drive

College football championship sees 21% dropoff from 2001

A blowout in Thursday’s college football championship capped a week of disappointing pigskin ratings for ABC, the exclusive carrier of the Bowl Championship Series contests.

According to Nielsen, Thursday’s Rose Bowl between Miami and Nebraska (won by Miami, 37-14) averaged 21.56 million viewers — a 21% dropoff from the 2001 championship game in the Orange Bowl between Oklahoma and Florida State (27.24 million).

Game peaked in the 9 o’clock half-hour in the East, with nearly 25 million viewers and a 9.1/21 in adults 18-49, but the aud declined the rest of the way as Miami took control.

Steeper drop in 18-49

The year-to-year falloff was an even steeper 29% in adults 18-49 (7.9/19 vs. 11.1/28) and 31% in men 18-34 (9.1/27 vs. 13.2/35). This year’s championship game faced tougher competish than usual, going up against, for example, the penultimate episode of “Survivor: Africa” on CBS, repeats of NBC’s strong Thursday lineup and an original edition of UPN’s “WWF Smackdown.”

ABC won the night in total viewers as well as all male demos, but Thursday’s title game capped a relatively tame few days in the ratings for college football.

All four of this year’s BCS games were off by 20% or more vs. a year ago. Collectively, last week’s Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls (all lopsided contests) averaged 16.72 million viewers and a 6.7/22 in the key demo of men 18-49 — dropoffs of about 23% in each vs. 2001.

CBS was a strong second on Thursday (18.2 million viewers, 7.1/17 in 18-49) and won the night in female demos behind “Survivor: Africa” (21.31m, 7.9/19). The reality adventure series, which wraps with a two-hour finale Thursday, achieved best-since-premiere scores.

‘Doubtfire’ bull’s eye

Fox also did well against the tough competition, as a repeat of “Mrs. Doubtfire” (8.92m, 3.5/8 in 18-49) gave the net its best Thursday scores (except for baseball) in 13 months.

On Friday, meanwhile, a new timeslot did not help ABC drama “Once and Again.” Airing at 9 and benefiting from a solid lead-in from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (prelim 9.7 million, 3.1/9 in 18-49), “Once” slipped to 5.7 million viewers and a 2.3/7 in the demo.

CBS also received a disappointing perf from “The Ellen Show” (prelim 5.6 million, 2.0/6 in 18-49), which was a distant fourth at 8:30 with its first original episode since getting some Monday exposure last month.

NBC rolled on the night behind all-time best scores for “Law & Order: SVU” (prelim 17.7 million viewers, 6.1/17 in 18-49). Show clearly benefited from not having any drama competish but viewers also made a special point to tune in for a guest appearance by John Ritter and a provocative storyline involving a beaten pregnant woman and her missing fetus.

Fox did very well with a repeat of “Happy Gilmore” (prelim 9.1m, 4.0/12 in 18-49), which gave the net a strong second-place finish to NBC, which has now won Friday on 14 of 15 weeks this season.

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