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Early Pro Bowl continues television ratings growth

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 1:37 a.m. HST, Feb 1, 2011

Pro Bowl viewership hit a 14-year high Sunday and has increased 53 percent in two years with the move to a pre-Super Bowl slot.

The game attracted 13.4 million viewers, a 9 percent increase over the 2010 Pro Bowl in Miami and the best by the game since 1997, when 13.5 million tuned in, according to Fox Sports, which televised Sunday's game.

Michael Story, tourism brand manager for the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said, "Those are fantastic numbers. I don't think it is a shock, but it is certainly good to see."

The Miami game was the first Pro Bowl played prior to the Super Bowl, and back-to-back years of improvement after sliding viewership are credited to the decision to move the game from the week following the Super Bowl.

The 2009 Pro Bowl in Hawaii, the last one played following the Super Bowl, drew 8.8 million viewers, according to the NFL.

"NFL fans have an insatiable appetite for football and can't get enough of it. By placing the Pro Bowl before the Super Bowl, we were able to serve up a fun and entertaining game on what had been a void in their football calendar," NFL vice president Brian McCarthy wrote in an e-mail to the Star-Advertiser.

As evidence of that, Fox notes that the second-best TV market for this year's Pro Bowl was Milwaukee, despite the absence of any Green Bay Packers from the game's roster. The top city was New Orleans.

Story said he believed that promotion of the Pro Bowl by Fox through the playoffs also helped the ratings. "I think there is that continuity and that certainly helped," Story said.

Remarkably, Sunday's rating came despite a 42-0 NFC lead in the second quarter. "While the score matters a bit less in an exhibition game than it would in a regular season game, a more competitive event might have delivered an even higher rating," Fox spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said in an e-mail.

McCarthy said the 2011 Pro Bowl viewership made the game "the most watched all-star event of any sport since 2009."

The 2009 Major League All-Star Game had 14.6 million viewers, the NFL said.

The spike in viewership comes as Hawaii and the NFL head into 2012, the final year of the current contract, and against the backdrop of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's wish to cut back the HTA in order to move funds to other areas.

The HTA currently pays the NFL $4 million per year to bring the game here.



NFC 55, AFC 41

AFC 0 7 21 13 -- 41
NFC 14 28 3 10 -- 55

First Quarter
NFC--Mughelli 1 run (Akers kick), 3:14.
NFC--Peterson 14 run (Akers kick), 1:00.
Second Quarter
NFC--Gonzalez 4 pass from Ryan (Akers kick), 10:41.
NFC--Hall 34 fumble return (Akers kick), 10:21.
NFC--Fitzgerald 25 pass from Ryan (Akers kick), 7:16.
NFC--S.Jackson 21 run (Akers kick), 4:32.
AFC--Charles 8 run (Cundiff kick), 1:54.

Third Quarter
AFC--Wayne 16 pass from Rivers (Cundiff kick), 10:05.
AFC--Owens 8 fumble return (Cundiff kick), 10:00.
NFC--FG Akers 41, 6:01.
AFC--M.Lewis 28 pass from Rivers (Cundiff kick), :50.
Fourth Quarter
NFC--FG Akers 38, 4:06.
NFC--Beason 49 interception return (Akers kick), 3:33.
AFC--Owens 7 pass from Cassel (Cundiff kick), 1:55.
AFC--Mack 67 pass from Cassel (pass failed), :16.

First downs 23 24
Total Net Yards 425 429
Rushes-yards 22-132 37-184
Passing 293 245
Punt Returns 1-1 0-0
Kickoff Returns 9-326 6-112
Interceptions Ret. 1-0 5-111
Comp-Att-Int 24-43-5 18-29-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-6 1-0
Punts 1-36.0 1-70.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 0-0 3-30
Time of Possession 27:52 32:08

RUSHING--AFC, Charles 10-72, Ch.Johnson 6-33, Foster 3-13, Mariani 2-11, Owens 1-3. NFC, Peterson 14-80, Turner 8-53, S.Jackson 6-33, Hester 2-21, Mughelli 2-3, Brees 5-(minus 6).

PASSING--AFC, Rivers 17-26-2-192, Cassel 5-12-2-95, Manning 2-5-1-12. NFC, Ryan 9-13-1-118, Brees 4-6-0-68, Vick 5-10-0-59.

RECEIVING--AFC, Wayne 5-86, Welker 5-34, Bowe 4-54, Owens 2-22, Ch.Johnson 2-11, Foster 2-9, Charles 2-0, M.Lewis 1-28, Lloyd 1-15, Mack 0-40. NFC, White 5-69, Gonzalez 3-42, Hester 2-27, Mughelli 2-23, Fitzgerald 1-25, Witten 1-18, S.Jackson 1-11, Ca.Johnson 1-11, Turner 1-11, Austin 1-8.


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