Ratings Roundup: Tebow, Broncos Drive CBS to 24-year Wild Card High; BCS Posts Record Lows

The Broncos’ dramatic 29-23 overtime victory over the Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game on Sunday on CBS was the most watched Wild Card game on any network in 24 years (as far back as CBS records go), as 42.371 million viewers tuned in to watch Tim Tebow engineer yet another Broncos comeback victory. The game also posted a 24.0/40 rating/share, the highest for a Wild Card game on any network in 18 years (24.1/48; Kansas City-Miami; 12/31/1994; ABC). Viewership was up 49% over last year’s comparable game (28.384 million viewers). The Pittsburgh-Denver game peaked with an average of 54.346 million viewers and a rating/share of 29.7/44 (8:00-8:13 PM, ET).

Earlier that day Fox also posted solid numbers for its coverage of the Giants blowout victory over the Falcons, logging a 17.3/36 household rating/share (27.7 million viewers). That is up 1% over last year’s comparable 17.1/35 (28.4 million) for the early Wildcard Game on CBS and ranks as the highest-rated 1:00 PM ET Sunday Wildcard game on any network since 2004’s 19.1/39 (29.3 million) for an overtime game between Seattle and Green Bay on FOX.

NBC suffered dips in ratings for its Saturday NFL Wild Card games. Lions/Saints earned a 19.3 overnight rating on NBC, down 7% from last year (NYJ/IND: 20.8). Bengals/Texans AFC Wild Card game earned a 15.3 overnight rating on NBC, down 16% from last year (NO/SEA: 18.3). Both Saturday Wild Card games hit three-year lows for overnights (ATL/ARI: 14.3 and IND/SD: 18.3)…

…A series of lopsided matchups and the migration from broadcast to cable have led to one of, if not the worst ratings performance by the Bowl Championship Series in its history, led by an all-time low overnight rating for the BCS Championship Game on Monday night.

The #2 Alabama/#1 LSU BCS National Championship Game earned a 13.8 overnight rating on ESPN, down 14% from last year (AUB/ORE: 16.1), and down 24% from 2010 (ALA/TEX: 18.2, ABC). The 13.8 overnight is the lowest ever for the BCS National Championship Game (14 telecasts). The previous record low was a 14.3 for the 2002 Rose Bowl (MIA/NEB).

The BCS ratings disappointment does not stop there. The Orange Bowl, a 37-point West Virginia blowout of Clemson, ranks as the lowest rated game in the history of the BCS and the lowest rated Orange Bowl since the 1992-93 season (FSU/NEB: 4.0, NBC). The game registered a 4.5 U.S. rating and 7.174 million viewers on ESPN Wednesday night — down 33% in ratings and viewership from last year (STAN/VT: 6.7, 10.682M), and down 34% in both measures compared to 2010 (IOWA/GT: 6.8, 10.879M, FOX).

Meanwhile, ratings for the Sugar Bowl were the lowest in 18 years and the third-lowest for any Bowl Championship Series telecast. The overtime victory for #13 Michigan over #11 Virginia Tech earned a 6.1 U.S. rating and 9.572 million viewers on ESPN Tuesday night — down 26% in ratings and 30% in viewership from last year (OSU/ARK: 8.2, 13.635M), and down 28% and 38%, respectively, from 2010 (FLA/CIN: 8.5, 15.533M, FOX)…

…Coming off the most-watched year in its 17-year history, Golf Channel kicked off the 2012 PGA Tour season with highest-rated and most-watched opening round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions since the network began covering the event in 2007. Golf Channel’s first-round coverage on Friday from Hawaii garnered a 0.7 household rating/705,000 average viewers, up 27% over last year’s previous best and more than 50% better than any previous opening round of this event on Golf Channel. Golf Channel’s viewership in 2011 was up almost 30% from 2010, setting a new network record…

…The extended NBA lockout look to have been quickly forgotten by NBA fans, as both TNT and NBA TV put up impressive number during the first week of the season. TNT averaged a 2.5 U.S. rating and 3.957 million viewers for its first five telecasts, up 127% in ratings and viewership from the comparable week last season (1.1, 1.743M, two telecasts). NBA TV tipped off the 2011-12 regular season schedule with and average of 405,000 viewers, up 120% from the first week last year. The network also swished its most-viewed regular season game ever, as the Bull-Clippers matchup on Dec. 30 averaged 722,000 total viewers (surpassing 681,000 total viewers for Heat-Blazers on 3/8/11)…

…NESN set another regular season Boston Bruins ratings record on Saturday afternoon (1/7/12) with an 8.9 average household rating in the Boston DMA (341,088 total in-home viewers) for the Bruins Stanley Cup rematch with the Vancouver Canucks (beating 8.4 HH on 11/23/11 in 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo). The Vancouver game also set a NESN record with a 23 share in the Boston DMA (beating 16 share for the Bruins 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on 12/17/11). NESN’s current season Bruins average is now up to a 5.2 household rating, up 86% over last season after the same number of games (34)…

…Comcast SportsNet Chicago logged its highest rated Bulls game ever on Jan. 3, a 7.66 HH rating for the Bulls 76-74 win over the Hawks (beating a 7.21 HH rating for Bull-Hornets matchup on 3/7/2011). CSN Chicago drew approximately 267,602 households for the entire game and posted an 11.54 peak rating during the 9:15 PM quarter-hour (over 403,000 households).