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How valuable is college football on TV? A lot more than you think

Ever wonder where all the money is coming from? How colleges can increase coaches' salaries explode like the dot-com boom, while at the same time building and renovating facilities faster than a kid with an Erector set? How ESPN can afford to shell out $7 billion for the new college football playoff?

Consider this figure: $1.1 billion. That's how much advertisers spent to pitch their products to the American public during college football season. 

The foremost expert on media, Nielsen, on Tuesday released its report on sports media in 2012 and the findings demonstrated just how much advertisers spend to reach viewers, and exactly how valuable college football is in the television landscape. 

Consider the following: 

- In the age of the DVR, sports are valuable commodities for advertisers because they are the last bastion of DVR-proof programming. According to Nielsen, 99 percent of 18-to-49 year-olds watched sports live or within the same day of airing. That outpaced news (96 percent) and well out-drew traditional TV programming, sitcoms (75 percent) and drama (70 percent).

- While sports accounts for only 1.3 percent of all TV programming, 41 percent of all TV-related Tweets were directly related to live sporting events.

- AT&T was by far the top spender among TV advertisers, shelling out $342.8 million - well ahead of second-place Bud Light at $213.3 million. You may recall AT&T is the title sponsor of the Cotton Bowl Classic, the Red River Rivalry and Bob Stoops' television stardom.

- As mentioned above, advertisers spent $1.163 billion to reach college football viewers in 2012. That number is up from $850 million in 2011 and $970 million in 2012.

- In 2004, the four major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) combined to show only four college football games on Saturday nights. In 2012, that number is up to 29. In all, those 29 telecasts combined to attract over 110 million viewers. 

- The 28 telecasts involving the "original" 12 SEC members drew an average of 3.957 million viewers (excluding the SEC Championship). The nine SEC broadcasts involving newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M drew an average of 3.926 million viewers. The SEC was once again the highest-rated conference in 2012.

- In all, seven college sports telecasts drew over 12 million viewers from March 2012 - January 2013. College football accounted for five of those broadcasts.

- As expected, the BCS National Championship was not only the highest-rated college football game of the year, but also the highest-rated among all college sports programming with 26.38 million viewers. 

- The SEC Championship (16.228 million viewers) edged out Notre Dame at USC (16.059 million) as the highest-rated regular season game. Overall, Alabama played in front of an audience that was 27 percent larger than Notre Dame's. The Crimson Tide attracted an audience of 7.2 million on average, while the Fighting Irish played in front of an average audience of 5.7 million people. 

- For a point of reference, the NBA Finals drew an average of 16.855 million viewers, followed by the Final Four (15.256 million), the Daytona 500 (13.669 million), the Masters (13.487 million), the World Series (12.66 million) and the Stanley Cup Finals (3.012 million). The only sports properties that consistently out-rated college football were the NFL and the Summer Olympics. 

- As mentioned above, AT&T was the top buyer of college football advertising at $43.7 million. Ford spent $18.9 million to sell its F-150 trucks, while Home Depot ($17.4 million), Verizon Wireless ($16.6 million) and Capital One ($15.1 million) rounded out the top five.