Fox is hoping to turn the impressive numbers into negotiating leverage as it pitches sponsors for next year's championship game after acquiring the broadcast rights in a deal worth hundreds of millions.
"It gives our sales and marketing efforts a big boost heading into the year ahead," said Fox Sports spokesperson Lou D'Ermilio.
Prices for Wednesday's Rose Bowl were estimated at $500,000 for a 30-second spot.
Fox ponied up some $80 million a year, starting in 2007, for the rights to the Bowl Championship Series--which includes the Fiesta, Orange, and Sugar Bowls plus a new BCS national championship game. Fox will be able to sell the naming rights to the new BCS title game, which it will look to bundle with on-air and other sponsorships.
Although Wednesday's game saw a huge ratings swell, it could be an aberration. Southern Cal hails from the country's second-largest television market, while Texas is from a population-rich, football-mad state. The game was also a 41-38 cliff-hanger that kept audiences rapt until the end. And Southern Cal was also going for a third straight national title, while the game featured the three ballyhooed finalists for college football's top individual award, the Heisman trophy.
Even if Fox is unable to turn a profit on the BCS--the estimated cost for a spot in all four games this year was $1.8 million--the games in early January will be a valuable promotional vehicle for "American Idol" and other mid-season shows.
There is some question as to why Fox would acquire the rights to college football's title games without broadcasting any regular season games, but the network could soon make a play for the rights to Big 10 regular season games.
"We would certainly take a good hard look at any major college packages as they become available," D'Ermilio said.
ABC currently carries Big 10 games, but its deal expires after the coming season, and the conference has begun negotiations for future rights fees. Fox cable sibling FSN does carry regular season college football.