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Bowl Game Attendance on Decline but TV Interest Grows

Monday, February 2, 2015   (0 Comments)

USA Today (12/27/14) Schrotenboer, Brent

Attendance at college bowl football games is declining as TV viewership increases. NCAA financial records indicate last season mirrored previous seasons as schools and conferences again struggled to sell their bowl ticket allotments and had to pay for a record $23.8 million in unsold seats. Meanwhile, televised bowl games are assured a much larger audience than other sports programming. "Fans are voting with their remotes and with their eyeballs," says ESPN's Ilan Ben-Hanan. ESPN Events owns and operates 11 bowl games, and 38 of the 39 postseason games this season will be broadcast by ESPN or ABC networks. This enables ESPN Events to sell tickets and sponsorships to games and not have to pay an unaffiliated company for TV broadcast rights, and the investment typically yields dividends with a large live TV audience that appeals to sponsors. "They [ESPN] need live content, even mediocre live content," says consultant AJ Maestas. "Even 400,000 viewers in a sad bowl with 25,000 people in the stands is getting better [viewership] than 100 channels out there." The size of TV audiences helps ESPN outclass rivals and command more in subscriber fees from satellite and cable providers. ESPN is not the only one benefiting from the bowl system; conferences and schools earned $310 million from the bowls last year, receiving a combined profit of $212 million when accounting for travel, unsold tickets, and other expenses, according to the NCAA.

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