The Big East Championship as recently as 2013 was a marquee event on ESPN. It was the anchor of the final Saturday night lineup for years. The final Big East Championship on ESPN drew a 2.1. But since then, the Big East’s ratings have dropped precipitously as it has moved to Fox Sports 1.
Last Saturday’s Big East Championship on Fox Sports 1 drew just a 0.3 overnight rating. That’s down 40% from last year’s 0.5 which also had the Pac-12 Championship as a lead-in. And when you compare it to the last Big East Championship on ESPN, it’s a huge 86% drop from the 2.3 in 2013.
The game drew 414,000 viewers
And comparing it to the American Championship on ESPN that aired the following day, the game garnered a 1.3 rating. The American was the old Big East and was split off from the Catholic schools which wanted to focus on basketball.
In addition, the Big East got beat by the ACC Championship on ESPN which received a 2.3 opposite Fox Sports 1.
Adding to the Big East’s troubles is the fact that the least-viewed game during Championship Week on ESPN, an ACC Tournament second game between Clemson and Florida State averaged 479,000 viewers which is 65,000 more than the Big East Championship.
So did the Big East make a mistake in moving to Fox Sports 1? The whole key for a conference’s success is exposure so it can recruit players. The reason why the old Big East did so well was due to TV exposure on ESPN and CBS. It had good timeslots on ESPN and all of its tournament games were aired on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU.
And while Fox Sports 1 has given the Big East plenty of leeway as far as game windows and aired all of the tournament games, the end result has not worked as well as either has hoped. While there’s still time for the ratings to go up, the conference coaches have to be concerned that their games aren’t being watched.
If recruits aren’t watching, it means that the coaches won’t be able to attract the type of players they want. Selling college basketball is not just location, location, location, but exposure, exposure, exposure.
Can Fox turn the tide in the next few years? We’ll find out.