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ESPN Tackles 9% Rose Bowl Growth to 18.6M Viewers

ESPN's final run with the Bowl Championship Series got off to a fast start on New Year's Day with the average audience for the Rose and Fiesta Bowls up 8% over their 2013 counterparts.

The combined viewership for the Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio  -- a 24-20 Michigan State victory over Stanford -- and the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl  -- Central Florida upset Baylor 52-42 -- averaged 14.8 million viewers and an 8.3 U.S. household rating, increases of 8% over last season's 13.8 million watchers and a 7.7 rating mark for the Rose and Orange Bowls, according to Nielsen Fast National data.

The 2014 Rose Bowl Game averaged a 10.2 rating and 18.6 million viewers, up 9% from a 9.4 and 17 million viewers for the 2013 Rose Bowl -- Stanford stopped Wisconsin, 20-14 -- in the same window. This year's matchup between the nation's No. 4 and No. 5 teams stands as cable's most-viewed program since the 2013 BCS National Championship game.

ESPN’s presentation of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between No. 15 Central Florida State and No. 6 Baylor was the most-viewed program of the night -- broadcast or cable -- with an average of 6.6 rating and 11.2 million viewers.

The 2014 Fiesta Bowl registered respective increases of 8% and 6% from the 6.1 rating and 10.6 million watchers for last year's corresponding New Year's night telecast, the 2013 Orange Bowl, that saw No. 12 Florida crush No. 15 Northern Illinois, 31-10.

ESPN’s fourth year of exclusive coverage of the five BCS contests continues on Jan. 2 with the Allstate Sugar Bowl, matching Oklahoma and Alabama; the Discover Orange Bowl, pitting Clemson against Ohio State on Jan. 3; and the Vizio BCS National Championship Game, featuring No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn, on Monday, Jan. 6.