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Move to Fox costing bowls some viewers

This is what I'm thinking:

*It was quickly labeled one of the greatest if not the greatest college football bowl game in history. But not many Western New Yorkers watched Boise State's incredible 42-41 overtime victory over Oklahoma in Monday night's Fiesta Bowl.

The game, which featured a late fourth quarter OU interception for a go-ahead touchdown, trick plays that led to Boise State's tying touchdown and winning conversion, and a postgame marriage proposal, had only a 2.6 rating on WUTV, the local Fox affiliate.

All I can think of is Western New Yorkers couldn't find the BCS game, which moved to Fox from ABC.

The highest-rated Fox game locally so far was Notre Dame's 41-14 loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl. It more than doubled the Boise State rating with a 5.9. However, Notre Dame did just as well or better around here with some regular-season games. Even Louisville's 24-13 victory over Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl (3.4) had a higher rating than the Boise State game here.

Presumably by Monday's national title game between Florida and Ohio State local viewers will realize that Fox is now your primary college bowl location.

Fox apparently realized it had a promotion problem because its New Year's Eve show spent as much time hawking the upcoming games as it did preparing viewers to celebrate the arrival of 2007. At times, the show seemed like a paid promotion for the bowl games.

*In past years after a game like Boise State's victory, you would hear the expression "that's an ESPN Instant Classic." But since ABC-ESPN no longer holds the rights, that's an inoperative expression. Fox Sports Net now has the right to declare what is classic and to air the encore presentations. The problem in Buffalo is you never know when FSN is going to air on MSG or any of its other affiliates carried here. The FSN plan is to carry all encores of the bowl series Jan. 12 and 15, with Boise State's game airing at 6 p.m. each night before a replay of the national title game.

*While the NFL's move of its broadcast package from ABC's Monday Night Football to NBC's Sunday Night Football saw national ratings gains, it didn't happen in Western New York.

The NBC package, Sunday flex schedule and all, averaged an 11.1 rating on WGRZ-TV. That was .1 higher than NBC averaged nationally. But the 2005 MNF package averaged a 12.6 on WKBW-TV. MNF on ESPN averaged an 8.1 rating here, down from the 8.6 the cable network averaged here on Sunday nights in 2005 and well below the 9.9 ESPN recorded this season nationally.

*While there has been national concern about declining NHL ratings in many team markets, the Buffalo Sabres' fast start has led to more ratings success on MSG this season. The MSG games have averaged an impressive 5.6 here and the average hits 6.0 when you include the games carried on Versus, according to WIVB-TV researcher Bob Gallivan. A year ago, the current average was 4.9. To put the 6.0 average in perspective, it is better than many prime time regular series get on NBC, Fox and ABC. And Sabres ratings are bound to increase once the playoffs approach.

*Beth Faber, an Amherst native who used to work at WWKB-AM, is the producer of ESPN's radio coverage of the Ohio State-Florida national title game Monday that will be carried locally on WGR-AM. She reports it is the eighth championship game she has produced, but first BCS title game.

*As promised, Time Warner has begun carrying SportsNet New York on basic cable. T-W is one of the channel's co-owners along with the New York Mets. Its big showcase is 125 Mets games. It also carries Big East and Big Ten basketball games.

*ESPNU has announced a deal with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference -- that's the conference that includes Canisius College and Niagara University -- to carry eight regular season basketball games. Unfortunately, the channel isn't carried by Time Warner locally. It is available on sports packages on satellite. At least the satellite services give its subscribers a choice. With Time Warner, you only get the channels it allows you to get.


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