ABC brings back Sat. football


NEW YORK -- "Monday Night Football" is a thing of the past for ABC, but the network sees a future in "Saturday Night Football."

ABC said Tuesday that it will return its primetime Saturday college football telecasts to ABC for 12 weeks in the fall. The new season, the second for ABC, will begin Sept. 1 with Tennessee vs. California. The last telecast will be Dec. 1 with the Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship, all at 8 p.m. ET.

It has been a ratings hit for the normally moribund Saturday primetime, giving ABC a 24% increase in ratings compared with fall 2005 and handing ABC the win six Saturdays during the season. The telecasts averaged 5.6 million viewers during the season. The Nov. 25 Notre Dame-USC matchup averaged 14.5 million viewers for the best ratings for a regular-season college football game since 1996.

Other games this season include USC at Nebraska (Sept. 15), Washington State at USC and Iowa at Wisconsin (Sept. 22) and Notre Dame at UCLA (Oct. 6). There will be no games Sept. 8 and Oct. 13 to make room for ESPN on ABC's NASCAR Nextel Cup race telecasts. There will be a version of the NFL's flexible scheduling for the games from Sept. 29-Nov. 4 to ensure strong matchups.

ESPN on ABC has the pick of Big 12, ACC and Big East on either six or 12-day notice.