You wonder how there can be so many bowl games, when so many have issues with attendance? ESPN is here to help you with that knotty problem.
Such games arguably make more financial sense for ESPN than traditional non-profit bowl organizations because the currency of the realm for ESPN is eyeballs on screens and not so much butts in stadium seats.
“The ESPN bowl games, which account for the growth in bowl games, are essentially made-for-TV events,” Stanford economist Roger Noll told USA TODAY Sports.
Consider that Miami Beach Bowl in which Tulsa beat Central Michigan last year, 55-10. A crowd of 15,262 was bad news for a small non-profit that relies on ticket sales and corporate sponsorships to make ends meet.
But attendance doesn’t matter as much to a deep-pocketed media network. ESPN wants live television programming during the holiday season to draw viewers, sell advertising and beat the competition, reinforcing the channel’s value with cable distributors and satellite providers.
The game drew an average of 795,000 TV viewers, trouncing other channels that day, on a Monday afternoon. Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network both had less than 280,000 viewers on average during the same time period, according to Nielsen. For comparison, ESPN boasted earlier this year that its Wednesday Night Baseball viewership had increased to an average of 636,000 in April, up 11% from a year earlier.
“Think of how well it would rate in a different time slot,” Overby said of the Miami Beach Bowl
Even though it was the least watched bowl game of the season, it was still a ratings win for ESPN. Live sports games are especially coveted by advertisers because viewers are considered more likely to watch their commercials live, unlike non-sports content that often is recorded with a DVR to skip the ads.
Not to say that Mickey doesn’t have a potential knotty problem of its own with which to wrestle. Playoff expansion is bound to hurt the bowls, so where does the WWL line up when the day comes that the CFP moves to eight… sixteen…?