Fox strikes BCS gold

Gaters upset tilts score

Fox ended its first year as host of college football’s title game a ratings winner Monday night, as the Florida-Ohio State contest became the season’s most-watched primetime telecast.

The Gators’ 41-14 upset victory over the Buckeyes in the Bowl Championship Series title game drew the third largest audience in BCS history — 28.7 million viewers — even though the outcome was evident for pretty much the entire second half.

Game earned a big 10.6 rating/26 share in adults 18-49, giving Fox its best Monday in three years — since the unscripted combo of “American Idol” and “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance.” Net more than doubled second-place CBS in 18-49 and other categories.

While the demo score came in well below last year’s record-setting 12.8/33 for the Texas-USC title game on ABC (35.63 million viewers overall), Monday’s game was up by more than 30% over the USC-Oklahoma championship contest in 2005 (7.4/19).

In total viewers, Monday’s game stands as the most-watched primetime telecast of the season on any net, topping the 27.5 million who tuned in for the “Dancing With the Stars” season finale on ABC in November. One other telecast — last Sunday’s Philadelphia Eagles-New York Giants NFL playoff game — has drawn a larger aud (29.7 million), but its late- afternoon start kept it out of the primetime rankings.

Ohio markets topped the local rankings, but the Southeast showed strong regional support for the SEC champion Gators.

Columbus, Ohio, led the way with a 49.7 household rating/69 share, followed by Cleveland (44.9/62) and Dayton, Ohio (43.5/58). Florida cities Orlando (41.9/55) and Jacksonville (41.6/55) also cracked the 40-rating plateau, while host market Phoenix posted a 24.6/26.

Of note on cable Monday was the best start for a series in VH1 history for unscripted skein “I Love New York” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.43m) — the latest from “Flavor of Love” producing group 51 Minds Entertainment.

Also, Lifetime did pretty well with its original movie “To Be Fat Like Me” (1.3/3, 3.74m).

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