Ratings Roundup: Despite Thrilling Finish, CFP National Championship Down From 2016

Ratings roundup is a rundown of ratings news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition: The CFP National Championship ratings, FS1’s Undisputed claims victory over ESPN2’s SportsCenter for the first time, a rundown of the regular season NFL ratings, TSN and RDS see big numbers for Gold Medal Game at the World Juniors, NBC Sports’ Golf Channel reports their year-end ratings, and Ronda Rousey drives viewership to FS1.

The College Football Playoff National Championship between Clemson and Alabama (January 9 at 8 p.m. ET) delivered a total live audience across the multi-network MegaCast (TV feeds + streaming) of 26,029,000 viewers, the most-watched event carried on a cable network since the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship (January 11, 2016) between the same two teams (26,709,000 viewers). According to AP, the game drew 680,000 fewer viewers on TV and online than last year’s game. The 15.3 overnight rating for the game was down 3% from last year when Alabama beat Clemson 45-40 on January 11, 2016.

That said, the College Football Playoff three-game (semifinals + national championship) total live audience average was 22,230,000 viewers, up 9% from last season’s same three game total live audience average (20,331,000 viewers). Factoring in the entire New Year’s Six, the seven games (New Year’s Six + national championship) averaged a total live audience of 16,044,000 viewers, up 15% from last season’s seven game total live audience average (14,004,000 viewers).

On just ESPN, the Tigers-Crimson Tide’s TV viewership drew 24,391,000 viewers, the eighth most-watched cable telecast of all time. Overall, ESPN has televised the nine most-watched cable telecasts ever, with the College Football Playoff holding each of the top 3 spots (2015 National Championship and both 2015 Semifinals), as well as No. 6 (2016 National Championship) and No. 8…

…For the first time ever, FS1’s SKIP AND SHANNON: UNDISPUTED beat ESPN2’s “SportsCenter” by 1% on viewership (122,000 vs. 121,000), from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM ET on Thursday, Jan. 5, according to Nielsen Media Research. In the same window, UNDISPUTED notched 76,000 viewers in the coveted Adult 18-49 demographic, +58% better than “SportsCenter” (48,000), ESPN’s flagship news and highlights program that debuted September 1979. Just a few days earlier, on Monday, Jan. 2, UNDISPUTED posted its best live numbers to-date with 196,000 viewers, a +717% increase over FS1’s 9:30 AM-12:00 PM ET timeslot last January (24,000). One year ago, ESPN2’s audience was 23 times the size of FS1’s from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM ET. Within just four months of its September 2016 premiere, UNDISPUTED has closed the gap, expanding on the lead FS1 established over ESPN2 in prime and live events in 2016…

…THE NFL ON CBS’s broadcast of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers’ win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Jan. 8 (1:00-4:15 PM, ET) scored its highest overnight household rating/share in the metered markets since 2014 for the AFC Wild Card game. The game earned average overnight HH rating/share of 19.2/38, up +4% from an 18.5/37 in the comparable early Sunday window in 2015 for the Wild Card game (Cincinnati-Indianapolis; 1/3/15; 1:00-4:15 PM, ET on CBS) and tied last year’s primetime AFC Wild Card game (19.2/32; Pittsburgh-Cincinnati; 1/9/16; 8:15 PM-12:00 Midnight, ET; CBS). The game rating peaked at a 20.8/40 from 3:00-3:30 PM, ET…

…Team USA edged Team Canada in an unforgettable Gold Medal Game at the World Juniors on Thursday and 11.1 million unique viewers  more than 30% of Canadians – tuned in (according preliminary overnight data from Numeris). The Gold Medal Game is the most-watched English-language hockey broadcast on any network since the 2015 World Juniors final between Team Canada and Russia. An average audience of 5.2 million viewers tuned in to TSN (4.2 million) and RDS (950,000) as Team USA captured their fourth World Juniors championship in a game that has been described as one of the best Gold Medal Games in tournament history. The game achieved a 40.2% share, meaning more than 40% of people watching television across Canada on Thursday night were tuned to the game. Audience levels on TSN and RDS peaked at 7.2 million viewers at 11:19 p.m. ET in the shootout, as Troy Terry’s lone goal secured the gold medal for Team USA…

…FOX Sports recorded its most-watched college football season ever in 2016 with an average audience of 1,320,000 viewers on the FOX broadcast network and FS1, representing a combined viewership increase of +11% over the 2015 season, according to Nielsen Media Research. FS1 saw a huge jump in 2016, with a +23% viewership increase over 2015. The Red River Showdown, an exciting 45-40 win for Oklahoma over Texas on Saturday, Oct. 8, led this season’s schedule, drawing 2,788,000 viewers and stands as the second most-watched college football game in FS1 history. On the FOX broadcast network, Ohio State’s win over Oklahoma on Saturday, Sept. 17, attracted 5,804,000 viewers and was the most-watched regular-season game of the season and is the network’s third most-watched regular-season college football telecast ever. On championship weekend, the Pac-12 Championship Game between Washington and Colorado on Friday, Dec. 2, delivered 5,671,000 viewers on FOX, a +120% increase over the 2015 game on ESPN, and the second most-watched Pac-12 Championship Game in history. The following night, on Saturday, Dec. 3, the Big Ten Championship Game between Penn State and Wisconsin scored 9,189,000 viewers, beating the ACC Championship Game, which aired in the same time slot on ABC, by +72%…

…NBC Sports’ Golf Channel on NBC coverage drew the largest U.S. broadcast golf audience in 2016 with 71 million unique viewers, +27% vs. 2015 and NBC Sports’ largest total audience for live golf coverage since 2013. Building upon NBC Sports’ slate of marquee PGA TOUR events, viewership growth was driven by the addition of long-term partnerships with The Open and Ryder Cup, as well as golf returning to the Olympics. With the most live hours of coverage in network history, Golf Channel also drew its largest total audience with almost 45 million unique viewers. As a result of a continued investment in high-quality, live programming, Golf Channel matched its highest-rated year ever for the third consecutive year (.08 U.S. household rating, 24-hour total day 6AM-6AM) since the network was founded 22 years ago by Arnold Palmer. After joining NBC Sports Group in 2011, Golf Channel has scored its six best years ever and has increased ratings +60% and viewership +53% over that span,  according to data released by The Nielsen Company…

The 2016 season of NBC’s Sunday Night Football was a historic one, as America’s favorite primetime show is pacing to finish as primetime’s #1 TV show in all key metrics for a record sixth consecutive year – tying American Idol for the most consecutive years atop the charts (since 1950), based on live plus same day data provided by The Nielsen Company. Sunday Night Football’s live+same day average of 20.3 million viewers per telecast exceeds the time-shifted (live+7) viewership of all other primetime shows – none of them topped the 20 million mark. NBC’s Sunday Night Football averaged 20.3 million viewers in 2016 – outpacing the top scripted series (NCIS) by 36% in the fall.

…AMERICA’S GAME OF THE WEEK projected to be television’s No. 1 show for the eighth straight season according to Nielsen Media Research, and FOX NFL SUNDAY as the nation’s top pregame show for the 23rd consecutive year. In addition, FOX NFL KICKOFF continues to show year-over-year growth, up +14% in viewership over 2015. AMERICA’S GAME OF THE WEEK concluded the regular season by averaging an impressive 13.9/27, with 24.559 million viewers, and is projected to continue its run as the highest-rated and most-watched program in all of television for the eighth consecutive year, according to Nielsen. The full season of NFL on FOX, excluding the Oct. 30 telecast from London, averaged a 10.9/23 household rating/share, with 19.434 million viewers across all games, and exceeds CBS’s NFL package by +10% (vs. 17.671 million viewers). On the pregame front, FOX NFL SUNDAY continues to top the charts, ranking No. 1 among all NFL pregame shows (projected) for the 23rd consecutive year, posting a 3.1/8 household rating/share, with 4.84 million viewers, +34% higher than CBS’s “NFL Today.” In just its second season on the FOX broadcast network, FOX NFL KICKOFF averaged a 0.9/3 with 1.341 million viewers, a +14% increase over 2015…

…Interest in Ronda Rousey’s return to the Octagon at UFC 207 drove strong viewership to FS1 on Friday, Dec. 30. Following Amanda Nunes’ shocking 48-second defeat of Rousey on Pay-Per-View, the FS1 UFC 207 POSTFIGHT SHOW tallied 404,000 viewers, a +166% jump over the comparable Jan. 2, 2016 postfight show (for UFC 195) and good for the fourth most-watched postfight show in FS1 history. Among A18-49, it was up +157% over the Jan. 2, 2016 postfight show (234,000 vs. 91,000). The FS1 UFC 207 PRELIMS scored 1,511,000 viewers on Friday, making it the eighth most-watched PRELIMS ever on the network. It was up +46% over the 1,032,000 viewers for the comparable FS1 UFC 195 PRELIMS on Jan. 2, 2016. Among A18-49, the prelims were up +42% (813,000 vs. 572,000). The FS1 UFC 207 PRELIMS peaked with 1,848,000 viewers between 9:45 – 10:00 PM ETIntrigue heading into the evening’s fights was strong on the network as well. The FS1 UFC 207 PREFIGHT SHOW logged 572,000 viewers, making it the fifth most-watched PREFIGHT show in FS1 history. The FS1 UFC 207 WEIGH-IN SHOW garnered 216,000 viewers, up +23% against the 176,000 viewers for the lone UFC weigh-in last January that aired on a Friday.