Ratings Roundup: ESPN’s BCS National Championship Nearly Even With 2013; NFL Wild Card Weekend Is Most-Watched on Record

ESPN’s BCS “Megacast” of BCS National Championship on Monday night garnered 26,061,000 viewers and a 14.8 US HH rating across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS (television ratings for the additional five platforms offering coverage are not available). The ESPN-only telecast of No. 1 Florida State’s 34-31 win over No. 2 Auburn is the third largest audience of any program in cable television history, averaging 25,572,000 viewers and a US HH 14.4 Fast National rating. However, the telecast slightly trails ESPN’s audience for the 2013 BCS National Championship, which drew 26,380,000 viewers.

Birmingham led all markets for the telecast with a 55.8 rating, marking the third highest-rated bowl game on ESPN in the market behind the 2011 and 2012 BCS Championships. Jacksonville was the second highest-rated market with a 31.1 rating followed by Knoxville (26.6), Atlanta (25.8), Orlando (24.9), Tampa-St. Petersburg (24.2), Memphis (24.1), Greenville (24.0), Nashville (23.5) and Charlotte (22.2). In addition to being among the top 10 markets, the title matchup was also the highest-rated bowl on ESPN in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg. All market records date to 2000.
In addition to the television audience, WatchESPN generated 773,000 unique viewers and an average minute audience of 252,000 for fans that viewed the BCS Megacast across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN3 and ESPN Goal Line collectively. Live access to the game itself on ESPN generated 553,000 unique viewers (a 53 percent increase), 33,600,000 live minutes viewed (90 percent increase) and a 160,000 average minute audience (69 percent increase), over the 2013 BCS National Championship. The BCS Megacast was the best event ever on WatchESPN with 52,000,000 total minutes for a 199 percent increase over fans that watched the traditional production in 2013.

Scroll down for a full recap of ESPN’s Bowl Championship Series Ratings…

NFL Wild Card Weekend
The NFL’s four Wild Card games averaged 34.7 million viewers last weekend, making it the most-watched Wild Card Weekend on record.  NBC’s “Wild Card Saturday” was the most-watched Wild Card Saturday ever, averaging 30.8 million viewers.  The two Wild Card games on Sunday, on CBS and Fox, respectively, averaged 38.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched Wild Card Sunday in at least 20 years.

Last weekend’s historic NBC “Wild Card Saturday” was the most-watched Wild Card Saturday ever, averaging 30.8 million viewers – up 14% from last year’s 26.9 million average, according to Fast National data from The Nielsen Company. NBC Sports Live Extra’s streaming of the two Wild Card games also delivered record consumption.

The New Orleans Saints’ victory over the Philadelphia Eagles was the most-watched Wild Card Saturday game in NFL history, averaging 34.4 million viewers.  The 34.4 million viewership is up 14% from last year’s primetime Wild Card matchup (30.3 million for Green Bay’s 24-10 win over Minnesota). Saints-Eagles (8:15-11:23 p.m. ET) earned a 19.1 rating/31 share – up 10 percent from last season (17.3/28).

The Indianapolis Colts’ win over the Kansas City Chiefs averaged 27.6 million viewers – up 17% from last year (23.6 million viewers for Houston’s 19-13 win over Cincinnati). Chiefs-Colts ranks as the second most-watched early Saturday Wild Card game ever behind NBC’s telecast of Seattle’s 41-36 win over New Orleans on January 8, 2011 (28.3 million viewers). The AFC Wild Card telecast (4:35-8:07 p.m. ET) earned a 16.0 rating/30 share – up 11 percent from last season (14.4/28).

Sunday’s San Francisco 49ers-Green Bay Packers game on FOX drew 25.8/41 household rating/share, with 47.1 million viewers, making it the highest-rated NFL Wildcard Playoff Game on any network since at least 1988, six years before the NFL came to FOX.  Year-to-year, the game is +20% in rating and +24% in audience over last year’s match-up between Seattle and Washington (21.5/36, 38.1 million viewers). The 47.1 million viewers ranking as the most-watched telecast since Super Bowl XLVII (108.4 million, Feb. 3, 2013) and the most-watched Wild Card game on record topping the 2011 AFC Wild Card on CBS, Steelers-Broncos, 42.4 million) and 2010 NFC Wild Card on FOX (Packers-Eagles, 39.3 million).

Earlier in the day, CBS’s coverage of the San Diego Chargers win over the Cincinnati Bengals was seen by an average of 30.9 million viewers, which is the highest viewership in 19 years for an early Sunday AFC Wild Card game (31.6 M; New England-Cleveland; 1/1/95; NBC), and is up 4% from last year’s 29.6 million (Indianapolis-Baltimore). The Chargers-Bengals AFC Wild Card Playoff game scored an average fast-national household rating/share of 18.9/36, up 4% from last year’s 18.1/36, which is the highest-rated early Sunday AFC Wild Card game in 19 years (22.0/48; New England-Cleveland; 1/1/95)…

Bowl Championship Series on ESPN
ESPN’s presentation of the five BCS bowl games averaged 16,549,000 viewers and a 9.4 US HH rating, up nine percent (vs. 15,131,000) and 7 percent (vs. 8.8), respectively, over last year’s five BCS games. Across all five BCS bowl games, WatchESPN averaged 329,000 live unique viewers (up 52 percent), 20,300,000 live minutes viewed (up 86 percent) and an average minute audience of 92,000 (up 64%).

ESPN’s coverage of the Orange Bowl on January 3 averaged 11,400,000 viewers and a 6.7 US HH rating. The game – No. 12 Clemson over No. 7 Ohio State 40-35 – is the most-viewed Discover Orange Bowl since 2008. The 2014 telecast posted increases of 8 percent (vs. 10,562,000 viewers) and 10 percent (6.1 US HH rating) over ESPN’s 2013 Orange Bowl.

Columbus led all markets for the telecast with a 41.1 rating, marking the highest rating for a bowl game on ESPN in the market since at least 2000.

ESPN’s coverage of the Allstate Sugar Bowl on January 2 averaged 16,339,000 viewers and a 9.3 US HH rating. The game – No. 11 Oklahoma over No. 3 Alabama 45-31 – is the most-viewed Allstate Sugar Bowl since the 2004 matchup that crowned the 2003 BCS National Champion and most-viewed that was not a championship game since 2001.  The 2014 telecast posted increases of 61 percent (vs. 10,125,000 viewers) and 50 percent (6.2 US HH rating) over ESPN’s 2013 January 2 BCS matchup, which was also the Allstate Sugar Bowl (No. 21 Louisville beating No. 3 Florida 33-23).  Birmingham led all markets for the telecast with a 50.1 rating, marking the fourth highest overnight for a bowl game on ESPN in the market.

The combined viewership for the Rose Bowl (a 24-20 Michigan State victory over Stanford) and Fiesta Bowl (Central Florida over Baylor 52-42) on ESPN averaged 14,774,000 viewers and an 8.3 US HH rating, marking an 8 percent increase over last season in both (13,736,000 and 7.7 US HH rating).

ESPN’s Rose Bowl telecast averaged 18,636,000 viewers based on a 10.2 US HH rating. The coverage is up 9 percent (vs. 17,024,000 and 9.4 US HH rating) over the 2013 Rose Bowl in the same window. Detroit, the top-rated market, averaged a 27.9 metered market rating, the highest-rated bowl game ever on ESPN in the market.

ESPN’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl telecast was the most-viewed program of the night – broadcast or cable – with an average of 11,235,000 viewers and a 6.6 US HH rating. The 2014 game showed viewership and ratings increases of 6 percent (vs. 10,562,000) and 8 percent (6.1 US HH rating) over ESPN’s 2013 New Year’s Day prime time BCS bowl, the 2013 Orange Bowl. Orlando led all markets with a 17.5 rating, the highest bowl overnight rating ever for an ESPN network in the market…

…TSN and TSN2 wrapped up as the most-watched non-North American World Juniors ever this week, doubling doubling the audience of last year’s tournament. More than 14.5 million Canadians – or 40% of the country’s population – watched some of the World Juniors on TSN and TSN2. Canada’s 5-1 loss to Finland in the semifinal ranks as the tournament’s most-watched game with a record 2.7 million viewers – the largest ever for a World Juniors game played outside of North America. TSN averaged more than 1.5 million viewers over seven Team Canada games – more than double last year’s total average audience. Sunday’s Gold Medal game attracted an average audience of 1 million viewers – the largest ever for a non-Canadian game played outside of North America.

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