Starting in 2011, the Rose Bowl football game is moving from ABC to ESPN, the cable network announced Friday.
"We were very specific when we did the Rose Bowl agreement back in 1989 about a free over-the-air broadcast," Rose Bowl Chief Executive Mitch Dorger said. "But the world in 1989 was different than it is in 2009."
The game will remain on Jan. 1 in its traditional time slot of 2:10 p.m.
"We knew it was coming," Dorger said. "We don't think it's going to be damaging . . . we think that the vast majority of people that are going to watch the Rose Bowl game are sports fans who already have ESPN."
Dorger said the switch-to-ESPN plan was part of the contract renegotiations with ABC a few years ago that extended the partnership through the 2014 game.
ABC and ESPN are owned by the Walt Disney Co., and ESPN recently outbid Fox for the entire Bowl Championship Series rights package beginning in 2011.
"Same presentation, same time slot," said Burke Magnus, ESPN's senior vice president for college sports programming. "It will also benefit additionally from our ability to multicast the game over all the platforms forms we have. We intend to give this property the same white-glove treatment we've always given it."
Magnus acknowledged not everyone who owns a television has access to ESPN but said almost 95% of viewers who watched BCS bowl games on Fox the last two years were subscribers to ESPN.
"By 2011 this change shouldn't result in any difficulty accessing the game," Magnus said. "With the digital transition upon us, and the move of major sportscasts from broadcast to cable, we're narrowing the gap. . . . And that distinction is going to be even smaller."
In a move unrelated to Friday's announcement, Dorger said he was retiring as Rose Bowl chief executive at the end of this season, when the Rose Bowl will host its traditional Jan. 1 game and then the BCS national title game on Jan. 7.
Dorger, 62, has spent a decade in that position. --