Even with Backward, Archaic Postseason, College Football Growing in Popularity

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DALLAS, March 2, 2010 – The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) showcased today several impressive facts from the 2009 college football season, including top-notch television ratings and stellar bowl attendance figures, that emphasize a continuing trend of increased interest in the sport by millions of fans across the country.

Highlights include ESPN notching its most-viewed regular season since 1994 and its most viewed bowl season ever while CBS Sports averaged its highest ratings since the sport returned to the network in 1996. VERSUS, concluding its fourth year of college football coverage, produced its highest-rated and most-watched season with a slate of 24 games. Despite a difficult economy, a near-record of 48.3 million fans, down just 1 percent from 2008, attended games at the 630 NCAA schools during the 2009 season, including the postseason.

“College football fans love their sport with an unmatched passion, and it’s exciting to watch the numbers roll in each year, proving the strength of college football,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “We are grateful to the bowl games and the broadcast industry for their creativity and commitment in delivering a first- class product that allow fans to experience the game with unequaled quality.”

Some other highlights from the facts and figures released today:

* ESPN2 experienced its most-viewed season ever, averaging 1.1 million households and 1.5 million viewers, representing increases of 8% and 11% respectively. The average ESPN2 rating remained at 1.1 for both seasons. The Pittsburgh at West Virginia game became the outlet’s most-viewed game ever with 4.1 million viewers and a 2.9 rating.

* ESPN’s College GameDay Built by the Home Depot, the 2006 winner of the NFF Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award, continued its meteoric rise in popularity with its most-viewed season ever, averaging 1.7 million households and 2 million viewers with a 1.7 rating for increases of 14 percent, 12 percent, and 13 percent, respectively, over last year.

* ESPN’s Heisman Trophy presentation marked its highest-rated and most-viewed show ever, posting a 4.1 rating, 4,045,000 households and 5,990,000 viewers, for 32% increases over last year while The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards show averaged a 1.2 rating, 1,166,000 households and 1,593,000 viewers for a 33 percent ratings increase and a 48 percent increase in viewers, which made it the network’s most-viewed college football awards show since 1996.

* Both ESPN’s College Football Final and College Football Live studio programs experienced viewership growth between 12-17 percent, attracting an average of 1.5 million and 478,000 viewers respectively.

* NBC garnered a 16 percent increase in its average viewership for its Notre Dame coverage, pulling in 3.7 million viewers up from 3.2 million per game in 2008.

* The Big Ten Network’s ratings increased across the board in 2009, with its average afternoon telecasts improving by 28 percent over 2008 and its eight primetime games exploding by a staggering 183 percent. The channel’s telecasts of afternoon games averaged a 2.3 household rating with the primetime games pulling a 1.7 rating.

* The Mtn. – MountainWest Sports Network saw an 18 percent increase in its average household viewership from 2008 for the slate of 30 games that it carried in 2009 and 2008.

Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president for college sports programming: “Nearly 200 million people tuned in to regular-season games across our platforms and more than 30 million viewers watched our first BCS Championship game in four years. We are excited about the future growth opportunities for the sport and look forward to televising an extensive schedule next year, concluding with the entire BCS.”

The 2009-10 bowl viewership and attendance remained robust, attracting 1,769,886 fans to 34 bowl games and filling stadiums to 85 percent of their capacity at an average of 52,055 individuals per game. Combined viewership for all bowl games also increased from 203,629,913 viewers (143,538,047 households) last season to 225,399,846 (155,331,079 households) in 2009-10, or about an 11 percent jump.

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