Miami running back Ricky Williams, who was named Pro Bowl MVP, flashed the shaka sign after scoring his first touchdown Sunday at Aloha Stadium.

Pro Bowl
TV ratings
up 53 percent

An estimated 15 million people
tuned in to the all-star game,
well over 2002's total

By Paul Arnett

Not only was the Pro Bowl played before a sellout crowd, the National Football League All-Star football game also enjoyed some of its best television ratings.

According to the overnight numbers, the Pro Bowl had its highest rating in three years, receiving a 6.9 and an 11 share on ABC Sunday evening.

The Pro Bowl, won 45-20 by the AFC, was up 53 percent from a 4.5/9 a year ago, when it was played on a Saturday. The game was moved because of the 9/11 tragedy and the Winter Olympics, which began that weekend. The last Sunday game, in 2001, had a 5.8 rating and a 10 share.

As solid as the numbers were for the 2003 Pro Bowl, it was still down 21 percent from the 2000 game, which registered an 8.7/15. The rating is the percentage tuned to a program among all homes with televisions and measures the 55 largest TV markets in the United States, covering nearly 70 percent of the country's televisions. Each overnight rating point represents about 735,000 TV homes.

That means roughly five million homes or about 15 million people watched the game that was won by the AFC for the sixth time in the last seven meetings. Miami running back Ricky Williams was named the MVP.

The share is the percentage watching a program among those homes with televisions on at the time.

"We're happy with how everything turned out," NFL senior vice president of special events Jim Steeg said after the game. "I think all the events the week of the game have helped get more people involved locally and we've tried to make the halftime shows even more enjoyable."

Steeg secured Atlantic Recording artist Brandy to sing the national anthem that included fireworks and a dramatic fly-over. He also had Jive Records artist and motion-screen star Jennifer Love Hewitt perform at halftime to appeal to a younger audience.

"We've taken some big steps in the right direction," Steeg said. "We had a great crowd out here today, which was very enthusiastic. Hawaii continues to be a great place to have this game."

In two months, Aloha Stadium will begin the process of changing from AstroTurf to the more friendly Fieldturf. Most of the players favor the changing of the surface, which was one of the conditions by the NFL to keep the game here when the contract was signed. There are two years left on the current deal that ends after the 2005 Pro Bowl. Steeg and other NFL officials met yesterday and today to discuss what needs to be worked on in the future.

Some members of the state Legislature have complained recently about the $5 million Pro Bowl price tag, but with the increased television ratings over last year, their cries might not be heard as clearly in the coming months.

By comparison, the NHL All-Star game, which switched back to an East vs. West format after several years of North America against the rest of the world, had a 2.4/5 overnight, up from a 2.0/5 last year and identical to the 2.4/5 two years ago. It also was on ABC.

The regionalized games of the Arena Football League, which is in its 17th season but first on network television, got a 2.2 rating and a 5 share. That compares to the AFL's championship game last August, which was televised by ABC and got a 1.3 rating and a 3 share.

The AFL's highest rating was in Denver, where the team is owned by John Elway. It had a rating of 11.8 with a 24 share.

NFL to celebrate 25th Pro Bowl in Hawaii: The NFL will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first game in Hawaii with a special 2004 Pro Bowl logo, the league announced yesterday.

The logo and several activities will help celebrate the anniversary of the first Pro Bowl in Hawaii, in 1980.

The first-ever Pro Bowl was in 1951, and the game has been hosted by Los Angeles, Dallas, Kansas City, Miami, New Orleans, Seattle and Tampa prior to the move to Honolulu.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

National Football League

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