Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Somebody's Watching Me | by Pat

With the regular season over, some interesting articles have come out detailing the rating successes of the 2006 season and how the Fighting Irish were involved.

As one might expect, the Ohio State-Michigan game was the biggest game of the year in terms of ratings and was the most watched college game since the famous 1993 game between #2 Notre Dame and #1 Florida State. What one might not expect is that this year's Notre Dame-Southern Cal game was second-highest rated regular season game since that '93 showdown.

Ratings were up all over for college football this year, thanks largely to ABC's decision to play a primetime game on Saturday night and ND is found throughout this year's most watched games. Only nine games this year drew over 5.0 million viewers. Here's the list.

1. Ohio State-Michigan
2. Notre Dame-Southern Cal
3. Ohio State-Texas
4. Cal-Southern Cal
5. FSU-Miami
6. Notre Dame-Michigan State
7. Notre Dame-Georgia Tech
8. Ohio State-Iowa
9. Notre Dame-Penn State
All but the OSU-UM game (3:30 start), ND-PSU game (daytime on NBC) and the FSU-Miami (Labor Day primetime on ESPN) were primetime games on ABC. I don't think I'm going out on a limb to suggest that ABC/ESPN will continue the primetime games next season and I imagine ND will be a frequent target. Looking at the 2007 schedule, my guess is that both the Penn State (Sept. 8th) and UCLA (Oct. 8th) games will be targeted.

However, despite the bigger overall ratings, ND's home games broadcasts on NBC took a 17% percent dive. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that last year saw a 44% increase as curious viewers tuned in to see Charlie's first season. A slight regression isn't all that unusual following a banner year. Still, the main culprit for the decline is the ratings for the ND-Army game. The game was the lowest rated ND on NBC game ever (1.7 million), which isn't a huge shock when you realize the contest against the over-matched Black Knights was running against the Ohio State-Michigan game.

Still, with the low ratings of the Army game, I wonder how NBC is viewing the ND decision to schedule home games against teams like San Diego State, Duke, and Nevada. Granted the Duke game is a 7th home game and therefore can be considered a bonus chance to sell advertising, but like the Army game this year, it will be a late November game that will likely be up against more compelling conference games. I'm not suggesting that ND try to line up marquee games against the nation's best teams for every home game, but, academic similarities aside, I have to think there is a better 7th game option than perennial college football doormat Duke.