Great finishes, cold weather add up to big ratings for televised football games

The BCS bowl games and the NFL's 'Wild Card Weekend' produces great drama and great numbers.

Combine compelling, down-to-the-wire football games with snowy, bone-chilling weather that keeps everybody inside and you have the recipe for ratings winners.

That's what happened over the past week as the BCS bowl games and the NFL playoffs combined for some great drama on our living room screens as well as boffo numbers on the ratings ledger.

It's hard to remember a better week of football, ever, starting with Johnny Manziel leading Texas A&M's comeback against Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on New Year's Eve.

Follow that up with a riveting Rose Bowl, a surprise win by UCF in the Fiesta Bowl and then college football giants such as Alabama and Ohio State falling on back-to-back nights and the BCS certainly delivered some great matchups in its final go-around.

Those games set the stage for a terrific NFL "Wild Card Weekend" with the second best comeback in NFL history being followed by a game ending on a last-play field goal.

And then you had another game ending on a field goal the next day on pro football's most famous venue.

Even the GoDaddy Bowl, featuring former Lehigh coach Pete Lembo leading Ball State against Arkansas State, provided suspense as it stretched past midnight on Sunday and into Monday morning. It came down to a last-second field goal attempt that was blocked, leaving Ball State in search of its first-ever bowl win.

The seven-night sequence had one more thriller in it as Auburn and Florida State finished off the college football season with a classic.

One can imagine Tuesday night being a letdown since it was the first night without a major football game in over a week.

Is it any wonder why ESPN, Fox, NBC and the other outlets command such a big dollar for ads?

It will be interesting to see if the momentum is maintained right through the Feb. 2 Super Bowl.

NBC benefited from the first time in NFL history that two playoff games were decided by two points or less on the same day.

NBC's "Wild Card Saturday" was the most-watched Wild Card Saturday ever, averaging 30.8 million viewers. Saints-Eagles became the most-watched Wild Card Saturday game ever, averaging 34.4 million viewers.

Sunday's 49ers-Packers game on Fox drew 47.1 million ranking as the most-watched telecast since Super Bowl XLVII (108.4 million, Feb. 3, 2013) and the most-watched Wild Card game on record topping the 2011 AFC Wild Card on CBS, Steelers-Broncos, 42.4 million).

The two Wild Card games on Sunday (Chargers at Bengals on CBS, followed by 49ers-Packers) averaged 38.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched Wild Card Sunday in at least 20 years.

Ratings for Monday night's national championship game weren't as good as the game. The game recorded a 15.3 rating on ESPN, tied for ninth-highest in title game history, and just barely ahead of last year's Alabama blowout of Notre Dame.

When counting the additional channels the network utilized in its Megacast coverage, ESPN's rating bumps up to 15.7, still barely better than last year's 15.1.

The Megacast provided some interesting angles and options to the traditional Brent Musburger/Kirk Herbstreit broadcast. Most interesting was the comments of the coaches, including Matt Millen, in the "Film Room," and getting their reactions without the hyperbole associated with each big play.

It was still, frankly, a little strange to be watching other guys watching a game.

A READ ON REED

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2013 YEAR IN REVIEW
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