Too Many Bowls? Then Why Are People Watching?

You can't talk bowl games without hearing the refrain, "There are too many bowls and no one cares about them."

The 2012 TV ratings for the bowl games show there is an audience for bowl games.

Not every game drew a large audience by any stretch of the imagination yet all but one game drew at least one million TV viewers. The Heart of Dallas featuring Oklahoma State vs. Purdue drew only 943,000 viewers but shortly after kickoff it competed with three other bowls starting. Despite those low numbers it still drew more viewers than many regular season match-ups such as: Clemson vs. Boston College, Arizona State vs. Colorado, Wisconsin vs. Indiana, and Ole Miss vs. Vandy.

The most watched regular season game was the Alabama vs. Georgia SEC title game with 16.2 million viewers. The BCS championship and Rose Bowl both outdrew the game and it wasn't "really" a regular season game. Notre Dame vs. USC with 16.1 million viewers was the true regular season champ.

The third most watched regular season game was Bama vs. LSU with 11.3 million viewers. The Fiesta and Cotton drew more viewers.

If you look at the 15 most watched regular season games, 6 million viewers for South Carolina vs. LSU just made the bottom of the list. 700,000 more people watched the Alamo Bowl with Texas and Oregon State.

Only six bowls drew less than 2 million viewers. The 1.9 million who watched Arkansas State vs. Kent State nearly matched the audience for Arkansas State vs. Oregon and as many watched the GoDaddy as watched Texas play TCU on Thanksgiving.

It is assumed that TV viewers will watch the "name" teams and ignore the teams from smaller leagues. There is some truth to that. The highest rated game featuring two teams from outside the "AQ" leagues was Rice vs. Air Force and it was the 18th most watched bowl, but the two least watched bowls were the previously mentioned OkSt-Purdue game and the Navy vs Arizona State Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Fox reportedly told those interested in starting new games that the network would like to bid for their TV coverage. With those games likely to not have big match-ups that might seem odd until you realize that the bowls with few viewers still drew larger audiences than most of the weeknight national TV broadcasts.

Too many bowls? The TV viewing audience appears to disagree.